Society of Spectacle

The Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, whose first of six televised hearings began last Thursday, is spectacle replacing politics. There is nothing substantially new in the accusations. The committee lacks prosecutorial power. No charges have been filed by Attorney General Merrick Garland against former President Donald Trump and none are expected. The choreographed hearings, like the two impeachment trials of Trump, will have no effect on Trump voters, other than to make them feel persecuted, especially with more than 860 people already charged (including 306 guilty pleas) for their role in storming the Capitol. The committee echoes back to Trump opponents what they already believe. It is designed to present inaction as action and substitute role-playing for politics. It perpetuates, as Guy Debord writes, our “empire of modern passivity.”

The committee, which most Republicans boycotted, hired James Goldston, a documentary producer and former president of ABC News, to turn the hearings into engaging television with slick packaging and an array of pithy sound bites. The result is, and was meant to be, politics as reality television, a media diversion that will change nothing in the dismal American landscape. What should have been a serious bipartisan inquiry into an array of constitutional violations by the Trump administration has been turned into a prime-time campaign commercial for a Democratic Party running on fumes. The epistemology of television is complete. So is its artifice.

The two established wings of the oligarchy, the old Republican Party represented by politicians such as Liz Cheney, one of two Republicans on the committee, and the Bush family,

— source | Chris Hedges | Jun 13, 2022

Nullius in verba

Welcome to a Science-Fiction Planet

David Barsamian: Let’s head into the most obvious nightmare of this moment, the war in Ukraine and its effects globally. But first a little background. Let’s start with President George H.W. Bush’s assurance to then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would not move “one inch to the east” — and that pledge has been verified. My question to you is, why didn’t Gorbachev get that in writing?

Noam Chomsky: He accepted a gentleman’s agreement, which is not that uncommon in diplomacy. Shake-of-the-hand. Furthermore, having it on paper would have made no difference whatsoever. Treaties that are on paper are torn up all the time. What matters is good faith. And in fact, H.W. Bush, the first Bush, did honor the agreement explicitly. He even moved toward instituting a partnership in peace, which would accommodate the countries of Eurasia. NATO wouldn’t be disbanded but would be marginalized. Countries like Tajikistan, for example, could join without formally being part of NATO. And Gorbachev approved of that. It would have been a step toward creating what he called a common European home with no military alliances.

Clinton in his first couple of years also adhered to it. What the specialists say is that by about 1994, Clinton started to, as they put it, talk from both sides of his mouth. To the Russians he was saying: Yes, we’re going to adhere to the agreement. To the Polish community in the United States and other ethnic minorities, he was saying: Don’t worry, we’ll incorporate you within NATO. By about 1996-97, Clinton said this pretty explicitly to his friend Russian President Boris Yeltsin, whom he had helped win the 1996 election. He told Yeltsin: Don’t push too hard on this NATO business. We’re going to expand but I need it because of the ethnic vote in the United States.

— source | Noam Chomsky, David Barsamian | Jun 16, 2022

Nullius in verba

Honduran Election Ends Years of Right-Wing Rule After Coup

neoliberal rule. While the official vote count has not been released, Castro holds a commanding lead over Nasry Asfura of the right-wing National Party, which has ruled Honduras for 12 years following the 2009 U.S.-backed coup which ousted Castro’s husband, Manuel “Mel” Zelaya. Xiomara Castro claimed victory Sunday night.

Xiomara Castro’s apparent victory in Honduras is seen as a blow to Washington, which has embraced successive right-wing governments despite widespread accusations that Honduras has become a narco-military regime. In April, a federal court in New York sentenced the brother of the Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández to life in prison for drug trafficking. Prosecutors also accused the president of being a co-conspirator in state-sponsored drug trafficking. This all comes as Hondurans continue to flee the dire social and economic conditions at home.

— source | Nov 30, 2021

Nullius in verba

Neoliberalism Strengthens the Right

French President Emmanuel Macron’s re-election by a comfortable margin against an opponent with whom he shares a mutual dislike almost obscured a certain co-dependence between their political camps. Macron and his opponent, the far-right Marine Le Pen, may loathe each other, but they have developed a type of political symbiosis that provides crucial insights into the current predicament in France, Europe, and beyond.

The specter of a Le Pen victory has sustained a tradition of helping incumbents return to the Elysée. Before Macron, 20 years ago, Jacques Chirac united 82% of the electorate against Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen.

But this time was different. In 2002, fear of Jean-Marie Le Pen forged Chirac’s triumph. In 2022, it was more of a two-way street: while Le Pen certainly helped Macron assemble a clear majority of voters, Macron also bolstered Le Pen. The result speaks for itself: an ultra-rightist won 42% of the vote. Over the past five years, the Macron-Le Pen co-dependence grew, and not in spite of the two opponents’ mutual antipathy but at least partly because of it.

Chirac’s 2002 re-election was built on a coalition of the right, the center, and the left against the xenophobic ultra-right. Five years ago, faced once more with the same far-

— source | Yanis Varoufakis | Apr 25, 2022

Nullius in verba

Was Frederick Hayek a Bernie Sanders Socialist?

Of course not!

Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom (1944) is the political bible of the American right precisely because it slams socialism in all its forms, claiming it will always lead to totalitarianism. Hayek’s best-selling book provides the justification for the incessant conservative attack on government programs and the incessant claim that less government leads to more individual freedom. Prosperity for all, too. Free markets preserve and enhance democracy, the right claims, while government social programs lead to dictatorial collectivism. As Ronald Reagan put it in a 1961 article attacking government programs like the Veterans Administration, Social Security, federal education spending, and farm subsidies: “We can lose our freedoms all at once by succumbing to Russian aggression, or we can lose it gradually by installments. The end result is slavery.”

But conservatives like Reagan obviously had not read Hayek or they would have noticed that their hero wrote many passages they would call “socialistic.” Each and every one of the Hayek passages below would be considered anathema to today’s Republican Party, their

— source | Les Leopold | Nov 18, 2021

Nullius in verba