The bourgeoisie was divided. Many business people were stunned by the sudden polarisation of society, frightened by the violence and uncomfortable with the Administration’s bluster, intransigence, lack of realism and apparent absence of any plan to resolve the international and domestic crises. Their comfortable world was on the skids. Retailers, manufacturers of consumer goods, small businesses and companies with cash-flow problems were bleeding to death financially. They could see the handwriting on the wall. They wanted compromise, peace and a new social pact in order to save what could be saved and start up their businesses again, even if it meant accepting a certain amount of worker control.
With them stood the mainstream professionals, engineers, academics and computer programmers, even a significant minority of military and police professionals. Artists, writers, liberal film stars were outspoken against government repression. Even the wives and children of the Rulers of the Universe had became infected by the anti-corporate, anti-government virus, and CEO’s were afraid of being confronted when they went home to their mansions and town houses at night. However, these wealthy and respectable middle-Americans found themselves politically impotent. In Congress they were represented by only a minority of liberal Democrats and by one Republican senator who still had the courage to defy the will of the world-dominating corporations. Marginalised by the media, the good guys were derided as well-meaning “dupes” of the internationalists, if not accused of outright treason.
The poor Democrats had never recovered from the disgrace of their single term in office during the 21st Century. Elected with the help of thousands of idealistic students and middle class citizens eager for peace, the attractive Democratic candidate had failed to live up to expectations about withdrawing from the quagmire in the Middle East, providing Americans with healthcare coverage, preserving Social Security, reducing the deficit, cutting unemployment, and reducing hydrocarbons. Harassed by hostile, Republican-dominated media, the new Administration had found its every mistake magnified, its every indiscretion blown up and dragged out into a major scandal. A hard-working, well-informed, bright young White House staff had been made to look amateurish and ineffectual. Worse still, the economy took another dip and the Republicans won back Congress after two years.
Faced with increasing attacks on American installations abroad and rabid Republican accusations of being “too cowardly to stay the course,” the new President, refusing to become the first woman and the first Democrat to “preside over a US defeat,” ended up reinstating the draft and cutting back on health, education and the environment to balance the budget and pay for the war. Mrs. Clinton’s exit from office was as inglorious as her entrance had been promising. After failing to resolve a prolonged hostage crisis involving US aircraft downed in Syria, she announced that she would not seek a second term. The hostages were released soon after. Republican leaders later scoffed at rumors of backchannel negotiations. The new Administration did however lift the decades-old trade ban on Syria, and the Republican hardcore never lost power again.
This hard core was composed of billionaire oil men and their cronies in the defense industries, international construction firms, agro-chemicals, big pharma, banking, insurance, finance and big multinationals. Faced with a serious threat to its wealth and power, this hard core was in no mood for compromise. Neither was the national security state, with which it grew in symbiosis, bloated to enormous proportions in the half-century since Eisenhower warned of a “military-industrial” complex taking over the country. These men in uniforms and suits ruled the world’s wealth through the unchecked use of military power, and they were prepared to use the same violence to maintain their power where it was threatened at home.
Members of this hard core regarded themselves as the Masters of the Universe. Directors and owners of corporations so huge their personal wealth surpassed the GNP of Sweden, they were none the less provincials, for the most part. Their vision of the world was narrow, filtered through the lens of ultra-conservative theories developed by second-rate academics in right wing think-tanks financed by themselves. Basically, they believed what they wanted to believe and assumed that the world’s only super-power could do pretty much what it damn well pleased.
Self-interest, wishful thinking, narrow-mindedness, rigidity, ignorance and lack of empathy with others prevented the Masters of the Universe from understanding the conflicts and complexities of the world they presumed to rule. Vigorous American capitalism had thrown up giants like Washington, Lincoln and Roosevelt. Decadent American capitalism was ruled by pigmies. The new Masters of the Universe had seized control of the greatest power on earth only to find themselves thrashing about in all directions against invisible ubiquitous enemies talking languages they didn’t understand. Like a hulking helpless giant, the lone American superpower found itself outmaneuvered and overwhelmed by Lilliputian opponents on every side.
Electoral control was maintained by spending huge amounts of money supplied by big business lobbies in return for future favors. To broaden their electoral base, the Masters of the Universe pandered to the crackpot ideas of fundamentalist Christians, millionaire televangelists, and the political establishment of the Confederate-flag-waving South with its links to the KKK and Nazi-type militias. It perpetuated its power by constantly precipitating crises, assuming more and more extra-constitutional powers, corrupting the electoral process with billions provided by lobbyists, looting the public treasury for the benefit of its super-rich members, creating huge debts, committing electoral fraud whenever necessary, and justifying its actions by blatant lies – lies perpetuated by corporate media whose ‘professional ethic’ forbade journalists to confront administration officials with their blatant mendacity or tax them with their gross blunders.
But these media, although corporate-owned, corporate-sponsored and corporate-managed, could not remain forever immune to the immense changes taking place in the real world. Journalists were increasingly hard-pressed to fit what they were observing with their own eyes into the frame of the official government picture which had to be respected. Reports posted on Internet sites kept them informed of the world outside the media bubble and exposed them to radical perspectives. Reporters and cameramen started standing up to their editors, editors to their producers and publishers, producers to management. If they weren’t given a little leeway they would ‘lose their audience’, was their argument. Videos viral on the Internet immediately gave the lie to official media accounts of every incident.
As the crisis deepened, more of the so-called ‘liberal media’ actually started sounding liberal. On the other hand, the hardline right media like the FOX Network and the Murdoch papers were demanding that the government stop waffling and nuke every terrorist from Bangkok to Boise in the name of Christianity and SUV’s. When the studio technicians and backup staff threatened to go out on strike against the big four broadcasters, the owners locked them out and sent management personnel to take over their jobs. Professional news staff, worried about their careers, hesitated. Some journalists sincerely hoped that by staying on the job they could make a difference.
Meanwhile, events overtook everyone. . .
When the San Francisco Bay Area Assembly pronounced itself an autonomous commune, the President and the National Security Council declared a State of Emergency including temporary suspension of the Constitution and an all-out war against “a small band of evil-minded terrorists, foreign infiltrators and individual grudge-holders dedicated to destroying free trade and the American way of life.” There was live coverage on all four networks of the President’s proclamation of a “crusade to save Christianity and free markets.” The broadcast ended with the following announcements: 1) all military personnel to report immediately to their units; 2) total curfew after dark; 3) all media placed under the jurisdiction of Homeland Security for the duration of the domestic ‘war on economic terrorism.’
Soon reports flowed in of military personnel despatched to secure broadcasting studios and transmitters across the country. Panic phone calls and emails from newsrooms all around the country confirmed these rumors. While many studios prepared to cooperate, in some locations the newspeople took to their microphones, got on the air and kept their viewers and listeners informed of what was happening. Playing for time, the broadcasters barricaded themselves in and sent out a continuous SOS to their audiences, asking them to come down to the studio and stage non-violent sit-downs between the occupied media and the troops. The public, indignant, turned out massively, and soon the broadcast stations were surrounded by huge crowds. These confrontations were of course broadcast live, inciting more and more viewers and listeners to get involved. By the end of the day, the crowds were so dense that the soldiers – overage Homeland Security Guards from nearby communities – found themselves surrounded, sheepishly gave up the pretence of military aggressivity, and fraternised with the crowds.
Swept along by the movement, reporters brought their cameras out of the studios into occupied factories, neighborhood assemblies, strike headquarters. For the first time, the media showed its mass audience the spectacle of its own activity. And for the first time, US viewers were exposed to uncensored, positive images of the strikers and revolutionaries at home and around the world, no longer viewed as threatening terrorists but as neighbors and comrades. These televised images helped ordinary people to take possession of their own collective activity, to see themselves and their movements as historical. Not only were “we” on TV, we were on TV all over the place, in every region, in every state, around the world. This comforting impression of national and international strength gave the strikers and their supporters confidence, and won over many fence-sitters. America was finally ready to join the world – but not the American government.