One does not need any special prognostication skills to know that 2018 will see even more intense attacks on Donald Trump and his administration, even given the growing happy talk about the economy. After all, the kinds of numbers that impress mainstream economists — Dow hitting new highs regularly, very low (official) unemployment, low inflation, rising consumer spending, etc. — are all manifest.
Hence insidious counterattacks like the Michael Wolff book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House (just published). Jake Tapper of CNN interviewed Trump advisor Stephen Miller about the book here, and I recommend watching the full video. Miller occasionally gets a few words in edgewise, his intent being to offer more than a couple of soundbites on behalf of those whose point of view is not heard on CNN. For this he was told, “I’ve wasted enough of my viewers’ time,” and his mike cut off.
What interests me about this video is that it is a microcosm for how corporate media elites deal with the alternative voices to which the Internet created space, voices which by the early 2000s were challenging then-dominant corporate media with far fewer resources, and whose influence with voters culminated in the present administration.
Intellectual and media elites would have you believe we have entered a “post-fact world.” Leftists (and some mainstream Republicans) want you to believe Trump is a racist, a fascist or at least proto-fascist; that he is incompetent; that he is mentally unstable; that he plays to a “conspiratorial” view of the world; etc., etc., ad nauseum. That his supporters continue to stand by him drives the media elites nuts. Trump doesn’t always play his hand in the best way. The fact that he doesn’t sing corporate media’s tune but continues to call the shots as he sees them often works against him as his tweets and words are ripped out of context. The wise know that sometimes it is best just to shut up, especially when enemy hawks are circling. Why give them ammunition?
But on the other hand, most Trump supporters couldn’t care less what the media elites think. Their values are not elite values. Their perception of what the facts are is entirely different from what the elites believe. For example, as I write, Trump is being denounced all around the globe for what he said about Haiti and African countries. Did he really say it? I have no idea. I would have to have been in the room to be sure one way or the other, apparently. But if he did, then if his description of, say, Haiti is factually wrong, then why are so many Haitians fleeing? I doubt they are trying to help the diversity bean-counters.
What we are in is a battle over who has the facts: dominant corporate media outfits such as CNN, or upstart challengers (Breitbart, NewsWithViews.com, ZeroHedge.com, PaulCraigRoberts.org, etc.); and which set of values are most defensible.
I therefore decided that my first column of 2018 should review the past instead of trying to look ahead, as so many others are doing. I’ve long held that if we don’t know where we came from, we won’t know where we’re going or why. I stated a quarter century because I needed to pick a reasonable time frame. Obviously I’m not saying our problems began just a quarter century ago. But the specific trends that led to the Trump upset went into high gear around the time the Soviet Union collapsed, or shortly before.
Let’s begin just with the fact, for fact it is, that the progression — Bush the Elder, Clinton, Bush the Younger, Obama — reveal uniform directions regardless of the party differences. The first: into globalism and corporatism, via “free trade” deals and the neoliberal / neoconservative coin (these two being flipsides of one another). The closely related second: into Greenspanism, one might call it: enhancing the financialization of the domestic economy by flooding markets with cheap credit, which drives up the Dow and encourages consumers (also college students!) to go into debt. This has been the true consolidator of wealth and power over the past quarter century, as artificial wealth flows to the top and the general population fills with debt slaves. The third: wars of choice (Iraq under the first Bush, Kosovo under Clinton, Afghanistan and Iraq under the second Bush, etc.) and other interferences often destroying nations (Libya). The fourth: the destruction of real education at all levels with political correctness. A fifth: domestic police-statism, as for the past four years, police have killed an average of over 1,000 citizens per year, often on the slightest provocation. This site offers specifics.
Leopold Kohr (1909 – 1994) authored The Breakdown of Nations (1957) a treatise that deserves more attention than it will probably ever receive, because he put his finger on the problem as well as anyone before or since. Empires are a bad idea by their very nature, Kohr argued. Their natural tendency is to grow aggressive and destructive. They aggress against other nations and their own people, as neither has sufficient resources to hold their power in check or mount effective pushback. This has nothing to do with any particular political party or program; the problem, Kohr believed, is systemic. The U.S. was on its way to becoming an empire after World War II. It had achieved this status in spades by the 1960s. Anglo-America was clearly the dominant political economy when the Soviet Union collapsed. Kohr’s basic thesis is confirmed, except for the one thing he got wrong. We have seen pushback with varying amounts of effectiveness. Kohr wrote well before there was an Internet, which makes it possible to get messages heard and organize outside the domains of power with very few resources.
Alternative media, most of it Internet-based, has been a major form of pushback against dominant corporate media. It was, after all, an alternative site (Drudge Report) that broke the Clinton-Lewinsky story when the Clinton-infatuated mainstream was ready to bury it. We have alternative media to thank for exposing Bill Clinton as the sexual predator he is, which radical feminists (starting with his wife) would have covered up — exposing how that movement is about power, not justice for women. Through alternative media we learned more of our existence in “the matrix” than ever before: the dominance of those I called the superelite in my Four Cardinal Errors (2011) and how all major institutions are structured so as to conceal this dominance from public view.
The Internet made the soft censorship of manufactured consent that existed before the 1990s much more difficult. Alternative views rose and flourished online. They offered a worldview able to compete directly with the dominant one. According to this worldview, mainstream economists and their media shills consistently portray the economy as doing better than it really is; mainstream thought routinely suppress certain facts that don’t fit its narrative on, e.g., race (black-on-white violent crime, for example); it promotes a globalist agenda in which There Is No Alternative to job outsourcing, open borders, diversity engineering in universities including suppression of conservative thought, etc.
In case my repeated usages of globalist are unclear, I use the term to refer to those who, knowingly or not, are promoting transnational authoritarian structures, beginning with (but hardly limited to) those of trade and commerce that require ever more complex systems of agreement and top-down regulation. No one truly believes a “global free market” is even possible, much less would resolve the problems and dislocations resulting from encircling globalist trade policies. The latter are not free market policies in any event but policies designed to further enrich a billionaire ownership class (the superelite). The telos of globalism is a world state: a globe-spanning empire, which, in line with Kohr’s observations, would tilt totalitarian as totalitarian control will be necessary to force cooperation from all the footdragging nations and recalcitrant populations. (My guess: the latter are already being starved into submission as their local economies are shattered.)
It was this, I submit, that Trumpism reacted against, as more and more of those left behind by globalist outsourcing came to question it based on what they could read online, and more and more white males came to question dogmas about diversity social engineering however it manifests itself (“affirmative action,” or “we need more immigrants”). Trumpism in the U.S. has hardly been the only instance of pushback. Brexit, obviously, is another. So is the Viktor Orbán administration in Hungary and the Law and Justice government in Poland headed by Andrzej Duda. Both, obviously, are at odds with the globalist narrative of the EU and its corporate media, which has therefore demonized them and orchestrated attacks condemning them as “anti-democratic” and “fascist” (a favorite word among those who have no idea what fascism is).
Not all pushback succeeds, of course. Geert Wilders lost to the mainstream candidate Mark Rutte in the Netherlands, and Marine Le Pen lost to France’s mainstreamer Emmanuel Macron. Back in the U.S., Judge Roy Moore, a federalist in the original sense of that term, lost in Alabama following a savage corporate media attack based entirely on unprovable innuendo repeated incessantly 24/7 in the weeks leading up to that special election. The allegations against Moore were far weaker than those against Bill Clinton back in the 1990s, with one of Moore’s accusers admitting she added material in a high school yearbook Moore allegedly signed to enhance its credibility. Moore’s signing the yearbook is not a crime, of course, and to this day no one has produced evidence he assaulted anyone. But this is how corporate media works: when you don’t have facts, simply make them up! Repeat them ad infinitum. Then declare that the other side has created a “fact-free world”!
And declare, via anonymous groups using unsourced material given credibility in mainstream outfits like The Washington Post, that we are all under seize by “fake news” originating with “conspiracy websites.”
Finally, put a Michael Wolff on the Trump administration’s tail.
So again — after his first full year in office — why did Trump win — which might very well have been unexpected (the one claim from Fire and Fury that is somewhat plausible is that Team Trump did not really expect to win the November 2016 election)?
First and most obviously was Trump’s superior command of both mainstream and alternative media. His media savvy vastly outstripped that of other Republicans, Hillary, and CNN’s shill commentators. He could command center stage even from those who hated his guts. He was ratings, and they knew it. Using his Twitter account, he could bypass the haters in mass media and communicate directly to his base of supporters, as he has been doing ever since.
Trump, I would argue, had two different but overlapping constituencies. The first consists of those described above, the so-called “losers” of globalization especially following the start of the NAFTA era (NAFTA, let us remember, was supported by both the first George Bush and Bill Clinton). These communities, even the Washington Post has acknowledged, are in serious trouble. They struggle with unemployment, underemployment, political neglect, and health problems ranging from depression to substance abuse issues (alcoholism and drug addictions) — all a price tag of not “reinventing themselves” as tech-savvy serfs for the “global workforce.”
In addition, these people get to hear about their “white privilege,” which brings me to the second constituency that supported Trump.
To put it bluntly, this group (with whom I identify the most) is fed up with reverse biases of various sorts and the political correctness that has been used to protect them from criticism for around 30 years. They tend to have college educations, but supported Trump anyway (however reluctantly in some cases) because he represented pushback against leftist professors and leftist student groups they had to kowtow to while getting those educations. Now, given how tech-era corporate America (think Google and Facebook, though these are hardly alone) are dominated by leftists, they find themselves still having to kowtow or lose their jobs, as did this fellow who has filed suit against Google. The discovery process has blown the whistle on the hard cultural left mindset that dominates the corporation that controls the world’s leading search engine.
There is a battle of worldviews going on. One favors consolidation, technocracy, and a near-worship of prevailing “experts.” The other wants decentralization, autonomy, and freedom of thought. The first, it goes without saying, is de facto materialist in its larger worldview of reality. The latter contains (but is not limited to) a lot of Christians—though I hasten to add, there is no logical connection here and I know of people who call themselves Christian who I’d have to put in the globalist camp because they support some version of the neoliberal / neoconservative axis (theologically the latter are usually dispensationalists, though that is a larger issue I cannot get into here).
The first worldview, dominant in mainstream media and universities, favors globalism and leftism, portraying them as “sane” and “responsible” and “centrist.” While not altogether unified, it is united on what it supports. The other, represented by alternative media, has been incessantly exposing these efforts while promoting individual freedoms. Alternative media is, ironically, very diverse intellectually. Too much so, I’d argue. There are “left” alternative sites opposing globalism as well as “right” ones doing so. A conversation between the two would be very desirable, but I don’t see it happening.
The battle over which side is presenting “fake news” in a “fact-free” environment will continue, as mainstream corporate media fights to regain the credibility it lost after openly backing Clinton and claiming she would win in one of history’s biggest landslides. At present, the mainstream’s weapons include labeling alternative media as “hate sites,” platforms for “conspiracy theories,” etc. It also includes the soft censorship Google is conducting, designing search algorithms in such a way that alternative sites simply don’t come up anywhere near the top in Web searches. The designers know that busy people usually don’t look past the top ten items that come up in a search.
This battle has already claimed career casualties (Steve Bannon being the most recent, given how he appears to have opened his mouth to Wolff about things he cannot possibly have known first hand), and we can expect that the Trump administration will continue to take new hits almost daily. Trump doesn’t always help himself with his mouth. I’m not thinking here of his lack of political correctness. I worry that he is taking credit for the numbers behind the happy talk about the economy I mentioned at the outset. Last I knew, how these numbers are calculated (e.g., the BLS’s U-3 “headline” unemployment number) did not change on November 8, 2016. Nor did the financialization of the economy change. Wall Street is still in a huge bubble, courtesy of QE. Massive spending on credit has not ceased to leave a person massively in debt. Trump’s pick for Yellen’s replacement, Jerome Powell, is another mainstreamer, moreover, and this is hardly encouraging. If Trump claims to own a real economic recovery, should the economy go into a recession at any point, for any reason, while he is in office, he will own that as well.
We would do best to realize: this battle of worldviews goes beyond Trump, and will outlast his presidency no matter what. Its outcome will determine the future: whether we start to develop peaceful, decentralized communities on an enlarging scale based on such principles as local autonomy and control, voluntarism, and the rule of law, or return to the path we were on for the past four presidencies, which was towards the marriage of Huxley’s Brave New World and Orwell’s 1984 that is likely if globalism ever delivers us into the hands of a world state.
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