What if the preamble to the US Constitution read “We the corporations of America…”?

This week proved the disastrous effects of a Bush-appointed supreme court, or, to put it another way, welcome officially to the United States of Fascism.

As Rural Woman Zone argues, “The Supreme Court’s Decision this week to remove campaign finance restrictions for corporations means the end of participatory democracy.”

In another good post on this catastrophe, Rodrigue Tremblay of Dissident Voice argues we are now a plutocracy, or a “political system characterized by ‘the rule by the wealthy, or power provided by wealth.’”

As Tremblay continues, “the Roberts Court has thus abolished the laws governing American electoral financing and removed limits to how much special money interests can spend to have the elected officials they want. The government they want will largely be ‘a government of the corporations, by the corporations, for the corporations.’”

People have been warning that the US is moving further and further away from democracy, a move that Naomi Wolf warns will be “The End of America” (the same title as her 2007 book, which she discusses here.)

Listening to talk about the recent Supreme Court decision on the radio and around the blogosphere, the following notion rules the (right) airwaves “we can’t limit the first amendment rights of a corporation because that would be un-American.” This argument is based on the faulty notion, writ into law ages ago, that a corporation IS a person and deserves the same free speech rights as a person. Stephen Colbert mocks this idea, noting “corporations do everything people do – except breathe, die, and go to jail for dumping 1.3 million pounds of PCBs in the Hudson River.”

One of the best anti-corporate sources of information I can recommend to those worried about the increasing corporatization of our world is the Canadian documentary The Corporation.

The clip below is especially pertinent to the supposed personhood of corporations:

As Noam Chomsky notes in the above clip, corporations have no moral conscience (unlike most humans, Bush excluded). Would you want Exxon Mobil, General Electric, Wal-Mart, or Citi-Group making moral decisions on your behalf? Would you even want them as a Facebook friend? Hell no!

A corporation is not a person!!! Corporations are ruled by the “bottom line,” or how to make as much profit as possible. They could care less about the environment, social justice, or your Facebook status update. Due to their profit-motives, they tend to lean to the right or very far right and their political contributions will aim to make the US as anti-progressive as you can imagine.

As a dear friend joked recently,

“How do you spell fascism?”

“F-a-c-s-i-s-m” I replied.

“Nope,” he quipped. “U-S-A.”

If you’re worried about this ruling (and if you are not, you should be), go here for a petition and other activist links.


What if the question wasn’t one of “liberal or conservative” but one of “democratic or fascist”?

As if I needed to make my blood boil more in the heat wave that is radiating across San Diego, while listening to NPR on my drive home, I began to hear the voice of Mitt Romney booming from my radio. I instinctively reached to change the channel when I heard the question “What do you think Washington is right now, liberal or conservative?”

“This I gotta hear,” I thought.

With the rhetorical question “is our government liberal or conservative?” framing his RNC speech, Romney attempted to claim that we live in a country that leans far too far to the left, that we have a liberal Supreme Court (yeah, Alito et al or SOOO liberal), and that we are all under the spell of ‘big government liberals.’

Now, it would have been nice if Romney had defined for his listeners exactly what he meant by ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ as these are very slippery, complex terms. For now, let’s suffice it to say that ‘liberal’ seemed to be used by Romney in the catch all insulting way it is by many Republicans and neo-conservatives – it supposedly means one is too easy on “terrorists,” that one supports “government dependency” (yes, because believing social services like education and healthcare are the purview of the government is so sadly dependent…), that one cares WAY TOO DAMN MUCH about the environment and wants to make the US “dependent on Middle Eastern Tyrants” (MR’s words, not mine!). Romney even suggested that liberals are to blame for high gas prices. Yeah, Mitt, that has nothing to do with the big oil industrial complex, global militarization, and CONSERVATIVES blockage of getting the US off of the oil sauce. (See, for example, the wonderful documentary Who Killed the Electric Car. As a hint: it wasn’t liberals.)

While many would call me ‘liberal,’ (my dad, in fact, likes to call me a ‘bleeding heart liberal’), I choose to call myself progressive. This is partly due to the fact that many self-proclaimed liberals and leftists have of late widely diverged from tenets I hold dear, and also because I think ‘progressive’ more correctly sums up my beliefs. You see, we progressives want to PROGRESS society forward by bringing about changes that benefit all people, not just people in the United States, not just people with white skin, not just people with sausage and waffles (my son’s way of referencing penis and testicles). Conservatives, on the other hand, want to CONSERVE the status quo. They want to keep things as they are. Heck people, it says it all right there in the word!

But, let’s get back to good ol’ boy Mitt. What if the question wasn’t one of “liberal or conservative” (as in his speech) but one of “democratic or fascist”? Well, if he was asked “Is this country right now democratic or fascist?,” I am quite sure he would loudly proclaim that we are a democratic nation, that we are, as the closing words of his speech proclaimed “the hope of the world.”

Yet, as you can read and view here, here, and here, the United States currently exhibits all of the warning signs of fascism. In fact, Romney’s speech inadvertently conceded this fact when he characterized the US as an Orwellian society. As he said, “It’s time for the party of big ideas, not the party of Big Brother.” Now, Romney used this line to insinuate that the ‘liberals’ who supposedly rule this country are the party of ‘Big Brother’ (he apparently has never read the novel 1984 or he would now that BB is far from liberal). Yet, what is true in this line (although I am sure he didn’t mean it in this way) is that we indeed are under the leadership of ‘the party of Big Brother.’

Big Brother and the fascist society depicted in Orwell’s novel thrived on perpetual war, on keeping the masses overworked and undereducated, on controlling not only all media but language itself, on demonizing sexuality, on hatred, prejudice, sexism, racism, etc. Sound familiar? Sound a little bit like the US? Would you like to CONSERVE these ‘values’ or might you be interested in PROGRESSING society – changing society – in ways that benefit all humans, not just those with money, power, white skin, certain religious leanings, and who belong to certain clubs (Bohemian Grove, PNAC, etc).

Indeed, reading 1984 feels more like reading non-fiction these days.

Sadly, the key question we need to be asking is not “Is the US liberal or conservative?” but “Is the US becoming, or is it already, a fascist state?” How about posing that much more important question in your next speech Mitt? Or, do you wish to continue to allow “retreat in the face of evil extremism”? (A hint here Mitt, the ‘evil extremism’ I refer to is that of the corporate elite and their lackeys that rule the globe, NOT to the people you so broadly paint as evil – i.e. liberals, people of the Islam faith, and people of Middle Eastern descent.)

If I needed reminding why I am progressive (which I didn’t), Mitt certainly gave it to me… (In fact, listening to the coverage of the RNC makes my ‘bleeding heart liberal’ self want to cry, throw up, revolt, move to another planet…) If McSaim and Pain win, oh goodness, well it will be just as depressing (if not more so) than the last two stolen elections.

So, to end on a more positive note, let me close with a progressive shout out: “Go McKinney!”

What if the USA was a democracy? (Bodies of War part 1)

(Note to readers: I will be traveling from July 16 to August 5. During that time, I will be posting three five-part posts in staggered order- one on reality tv and beauty norms (entitled Beauty Imperatives), another on the Iraq war and militarization (entitled Bodies of War), and another on advertising and white privilege (entitled Consuming Whiteness). Hopefully, some or all of these will speak to your various interests. If I can get my laptop working and wired during my travels, I may post more. I will attempt to respond to comments when possible, but please forgive me in advance for being semi-unwired for the next three weeks. Thank you for reading!)

One of the hallmarks of a democracy is a free media. The USA does not have one of these. Moreover, it has all the warning signs of being a fascist state, as evidenced here.

Sometime ago, I wrote a paper entitled “Administering Media to the American Public: Selling War, Hiding Bodies, and Championing Militarized Masculinity” for a proposed collection called Iraq War Culture. As that collection never came to be, I have decided to reformat this paper into blog sized bits and post it over the next few weeks. Better that than leave it loitering in my hard-drive …

In this first chunk, I will consider how the media normalizes and glorifies war. This media celebration of wartime violence, power, domination and its accompanying ruling ideology, hypermasculinity, helps to explain the apathy and indifference so many US citizens seem to take towards the current Iraq War, an apathy that is currently so entrenched that many find Christie Brinkley’s divorce or the JonBenet Ramsey case more newsworthy than what is going on in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Gitmo.

While the US has been at war with one nation or another for over half a century, one major shift is the way war is no longer covered by the media. Yes, the US media briefly covers death counts and ‘major happenings,’ but it offers no in depth coverage or analysis. Images, likewise, are not hard-hitting and show little of actual war carnage. Instead, we see sand and tanks, buildings and uniforms. This paltry type of war coverage was not always the case. It came about due to what Noam Chomsky and others refer to as “the Vietnam Syndrome” or the “sickly inhibitions against war.”

Now, not only the news media, but also the US entertainment media and the celebrity culture that surrounds it, decline to respond to or consider the ramifications of infinite war. As a case in point, when Charlie Sheen insisted on CNN a few years back that we need to reconsider the ruling narratives of 9/11, the story was quickly buried and, instead, we got coverage of Sheen’s split from Denise Richards. Currently, instead of coverage of rising casualties, both military and civilian, we have news coverage of athlete scandals and celebrity divorces.

This massive lack of coverage of the war allows for (and even promotes) our attention to be diverted elsewhere, allows for us to pretend we aren’t really at war after all. In particular, the lack of actual ‘war bodies’ – the lack of images of wounded or dead soldiers, of civilian casualties, of war refugees, of prisoners, of rape survivors, of bodies deformed by uranium depletion, of the tortured, mutilated, and/or murdered bodies resulting from the sharp rise in ‘honor crimes,’ promotes people to disengage from the war.

While war coverage can no doubt be found if one digs (especially if you dig in that last bastion of free media–the internet), the mainstream news veers all to close to entertainment fluff. The MSM displays only endless sand, tanks, and, once in awhile, a neatly clad soldier in uniform who is usually smiling (and almost always white and male). This lack of coverage, especially given increasing reports of gang rapes, torture, deformities caused by uranium depletion, injuries brought on via ‘magical’ weapons such as daisy cutter bombs, let alone of rising soldier and civilian casualties, allows for a simultaneous forgetting of the war. By hiding the carnage, the war remains ‘over there.’

This out of sight, out of mind Iraq War Culture, along with the lack of media coverage of cultural resistance against the Iraq War, is distinctive in the way in which it has consistently put the ‘bodies of war’ under erasure. For example, the Pentagon’s well-documented outrage when papers showed pictures of soldiers coffins ready to be shipped home to the US reveals an administration that is intent on ‘hiding bodies’ and a media that is complicit in this cover-up. With such orchestrated refusals to show the bodily toll of war, the government and the MSM are effectively ‘disembodying’ the war, and, in so doing, allowing the American public to ignore the very real bodily costs of war.

In regards to the claim that our purportedly free media, what many have noted is one of the hallmarks of democracy, is not so free, let’s first consider the overwhelming lack of alternatives to the main narratives of 9/11 and war, let alone the inclusion of any voices of dissent. As feminist theorist Cynthia Enloe notes, criticisms of militarization in any form are viewed (and dismissed) as unpatriotic.[1] As a case in point, Bill Maher lost his contract for Politically Incorrect due to his suggestion that it was more cowardly to launch missiles from a safe distance than to fly a plane into a building. Or, take the case of Senator Barbara Lee, who was severely criticized for casting the ONLY vote again giving Bush absolute discretion in the military response to so-called terrorism

Not only does the MSM offer a false narrative via their incessant use of inflammatory and facile us/them rhetoric, but they also fail to cover the mass based war resistance movement. Cindy Sheehan is only ‘news’ when she gets arrested at the State of the Union Speech, not when she runs for Congress on an anti-war platform. And, as for the many CodePink marches in D.C. and elsewhere, they barely garner a mention. In so doing, as Noam Chomsky argues, the media is intricately involved in manufacturing our consent. Or, as reporter and founder of the website If Americans Knew, Alison Weir, insists, what we do not hear and see allows our imperialist wars to continue unabated.

Worryingly, the Associated Press, which provides (and thus determines) the news to a billion or more people each day, has been found to be very selective in the news it does and does not cover (see here for more). Moreover, reporters and media organizations that cover ‘off limit’ topics are likely to be rudimentarily punished and forcibly either brought into line or silenced. The bombing of al-Jazeera is only one case of the forcibly delivered message to media organizations and journalists: shut up or we will shut you up. As Iraqi journalists report, the “prize that comes with the U.S. occupation” is that “there is no guarantee that you won’t get killed for what you say or write.”[2] Corroborating this claim, the independent group Reporters Without Borders related that at least 93 media workers have been killed since the war began. In May ’06 alone, 4 Iraqi journalists were murdered.[3] As Amy Goodman reveals in her documentary Independent Media in a Time of War, for those who wish to cover the war and its fallout, these are dangerous times indeed. However, this danger is certainly not covered by mainstream US media.

Arundhati Roy, in her book War Talk, laments this worrying collusion of the media with the administration, noting the mainstream media’s “blatant performance as the U.S. governments mouthpiece, its display of vengeful patriotism, its willingness to publish Pentagon press handouts as news, and its explicit censorship of dissenting opinion.”[4] As revealed by various witty news compilations on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, the media speaksa in one voice with multiple channels and networks using the same terminology, phrasing, and even word for word verbiage to report stories. As the Daily Show clips suggest, news is no longer about investigative reporting, detailed coverage, let alone accurate information – rather, it is one big revolving PR campaign for the administration and corporate interests – who are, of course, increasingly one and the same.

This media control (a mark of fascism, for those of you who don’t know) should be extremely worrying to all of us who like the idea of true democracy. We are no longer, in case you hadn’t noticed, a democratic nation with a free media.

[1] Enloe, Cynthia. The Curious Feminist: Searching for Women in a New Age of Empire. Berkeley: U of Calif P, 2004.
[3] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/11/AR2006051101184_pf.html
[4] Arundhati Roy. War Talk. Cambridge: South End Press, 2003. 79.