Guest MINDSETTER™ Stewart: Local Progressives Aiming Gun at Own Foot, Will They Pull Trigger?

Wednesday, May 17, 2017


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You might have noticed something of late that seems to have overcome the liberal/progressive discourse and bears as much sanity as the continued successful sales of Pokemon. For reasons that quite honestly continue to evade my understanding, mostly because I no longer watch MSDNC, local progressives are hot and bothered over an alleged connection between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. I cannot engage in a basic conversation about anything without the name of the Russian president popping up. Healthcare? “Trump’s ACHA is awful and PUTIN!” Climate change? “We need to reduce our carbon PUTIN!” What is you favorite tune by Irving Berlin? “PUTIN on the Ritz!” What is going on?

I am not a dolt and, as someone who has studied media history, I recognize this narrative discourse quite clearly. Unfortunately many local progressives do not and it is to all our peril. Essentially everyone is being played by the deceptive, manipulative and corrupt media responsible for, among other things, justifying the Iraq war with a false story about WMDs, biased coverage of the recent presidential campaign to favor Hillary Clinton at the expense of Bernie Sanders, and a whole host of other “fake news” stories that have been used to the detriment of the public. So here’s my brief on how unfathomably and unbelievably dangerous this Russia nonsense actually is.

Since at the latest 2012, the overwhelming majority of the population has been getting pretty sick of what has been known for 25 years as “consensus” politics, a set of policies and laws that alternatively can be called neoliberalism/neoconservatism, corporatism, or cronyism. Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter/Movement for Black Lives, the anti-fracking/fossil fuel infrastructure expansion movement, all these and more are instances of a popular revolt unseen in over a century. Or more precisely, 156 years.

We have entered into a period where the public is finally waking up and becoming ungovernable in a fashion akin to 1861-65, when we had this little fracas known as the Civil War. Now obviously there are some massive differences, including the fact that a separate republic has yet to form out of secessionist states. But in the same way that the governors of certain states jutted out their mutton-chopped chins to towards Washington and said “NO” so we have seen the public telling the powers-that-be to take a hike. Obviously the reason for this resistance is the absolute opposite from the motivation of the Confederacy, slavery, but in terms of the power dynamics, the people have become ungovernable. And because it is the absolute opposite of the Confederate motivation, we can actually applaud this. Rhode Island native Grace Lee Boggs said in the final years of her life “We are the leaders we have been looking for”, by which she meant we need no parties or politicians to tell us what to do. Instead we are the agents of our own destiny and can do far more than any elected official ever would.

If you doubt me, just look at Providence, which seems to be hosting every week some sort of protest, picket line, or demonstration on multiple days that wholeheartedly rejects an element of the consensus politics. This made itself on the national stage most recently in the case of the populist uprising that gravitated around the presidential campaigns of retro-New Dealer Bernie Sanders and retro-Dixiecrat Donald Trump.

The elites in the 1% have also caught onto this. And they are getting pretty nervous. As such they are trotting out an old strategy from their playbook of public manipulation tactics.

Just over seven decades ago, something like this also happened. The United States emerged from the ritualistic human sacrifice known as World War II as the only victor totally unscathed by the conflagration. While Berlin, London, Rome, and Tokyo were effectively nothing more that vast expanses populated with bloody piles of rubble, the American home front was host to sprawling metropolises that were peopled by an extremely civically-engaged, patriotic, and progressive-leaning white voter base living in the northern half of the United States. What is forgotten about World War II is how, at a time when the AFL, the CIO, and the Communist Party USA all demanded their members abide by a near-sacred wartime no-strike pledge, the country was host to hundreds of unauthorized, illegal wildcat strikes. This was when the government and press were able to say without a hint of hyperbole in their inflection that “If you walk off the job, Hitler will win the war!” Simultaneously gays, women, and Blacks began to organize into a cohesive element agitating for civil rights.

So what did the ruling elites do? 

The Democrats started a false panic about Russia. 

Harry Truman got the ball rolling with his loyalty oaths and purging federal employment of “Communist subversives” while blaming domestic protests on Joseph Stalin rather than Democratic Party mistreatment of progressives and minorities they allied themselves with. Sen. Susan Collins has already begun this sort of discussion again by having Dr. Eugene Rumer testify on March 30 that Occupy Wall Street was supported by Russian media, saying that “It's a perfect example in that Occupy Wall Street was a genuine movement on the  Left. But it certainly serves the interests of Russian propaganda to play it up as a major challenge, as something representing a major fault line in our society. because, you know, it drives the message that the United States is in decline, that the United States is in crisis, it plays up to audiences at home in Russia and abroad, that the United States is not the perfect  society, something that they really like to emphasize.  So that's -- that's -- that's an excellent example. And I  think it deserves the attention that you -- the spotlight that you cast on it… It's blown out of all proportions. And as you know, the best propaganda is that which has a grain of truth to it.” Heaven forbid that the ruling elites actually admit how awfully they treat the 99% via austerity policies!

Then a raving lunatic named Joe McCarthy recognized he could make big headlines out of this stuff. Accusations of espionage and subversion leveled against a minor third party of progressives, the Communists, snowballed into accusations against the entirety of the Democratic Party. Indeed, as documented by Susan Jacoby in her book Alger Hiss and the Battle for History, the political discourse as framed by the Republicans continues today to carry antecedents that go back to the Red Scare. Right wing ideologues funded by the Koch brothers still say that Social Security, school desegregation, and other elements of the welfare state that come out of the New Deal and LBJ’s Great Society were in reality Communist plots.

This is all pertinent because it has now been revealed in the new book Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign that this whole notion of Russia hacking the election was in fact merely a talking point manufactured hours after the end of the most bizarre 24 months in American history. Since last November the Democrats aligned with the Clinton machine have been pumping out through their lackeys in the press reams of absolute nonsense about Vladimir Putin and Russia that directly mimics the major talking points from the McCarthy years.

Now, did Russian-owned media, such as RT and Sputnik Radio, publish pro-Trump stories during the election? Yes, and this is because they have no principles and will support any politician who says they oppose saber-rattling towards the Kremlin. RT and Sputnik acted the same way most recently with Marine Le Pen because she was opposed to the forces which have been steadily and without warrant encircling the Russian border with heavy artillery pointed directly at Moscow over the past 20 years. But then again the Daily Worker, the news venue also getting cash from the Kremlin, would endorse FDR during an election, does such endorsement mean he was a stooge of Joseph Stalin? And does this indicate more than anything else how progressives have so substantially abandoned opposition to war that such anxieties find expression only in the anti-interventionist/isolationist right? Over the past eight years the anti-war movement locally has been reduced to low ranks from its peak over a decade ago at the start of the Iraq war.

Quite obviously there are certainly plenty of qualms to raise about Putin and the Russian government he leads. As a queer man I have a significant feeling of solidarity with LGBTQQIA+ folks in Russia who are subjected to state violence stemming from laws that target same-sex attracted people. But I also am forced to wonder whether these local liberal/progressives would be raising this sort of stink about the connections of a President Hillary Clinton and that veritable oasis of feminism known as Saudi Arabia. At this point multiple news agencies and reporters, including my current editor at Washington Babylon, Ken Silverstein, have pointed out in serious muckraking venues that the Clinton Foundation’s ties with the House of Saud were quite substantial and were going to seriously impact American foreign policy in the Middle East regardless of domestic protests to the contrary. 

As for the firing of James Comey, I shed not a single tear for the man who unleashed militarized goons on the protesters at Standing Rock and created from whole cloth the fantasy of a War on Cops. Local progressives who mourn his martyrdom are unwittingly saying therefore that Comey’s COINTELPRO-styled espionage against American political protesters was part of a great career they wish to restore. Donald Trump is a nasty narcissistic white nationalist whose own bluster, blunder, and diet of Big Macs perhaps will either cause his ejection from office before 2020 or compel him to follow the lead of LBJ and limit himself to a single term. If there were devious items related to Trump’s business connections with Russia, why only now and not in the past 36 months has this become an issue? Trump’s garish and galling graft is simply so sloppy and saucy that he truly merits the respect shown anyone doing stand-up on amateur night at the Apollo. 

Hillary Clinton’s foundation, by contrast, remains a galling hive of the most wretched malfeasance. Julian Assange told John Pilger in a November interview:

JOHN PILGER: In terms of the foreign policy of the United States, that’s where the emails are most revealing, where they show the direct connection between Hillary Clinton and the foundation of jihadism, of ISIL, in the Middle East. Can you talk about how the emails demonstrate the connection between those who are meant to be fighting the jihadists of ISIL, are actually those who have helped create it.

JULIAN ASSANGE: There’s an early 2014 email from Hillary Clinton, not so long after she left the State Department, to her campaign manager John Podesta that states ISIL is funded by the governments of Saudi Arabia and Qatar.  Now this is the most significant email in the whole collection, and perhaps because Saudi and Qatari money is spread all over the Clinton Foundation.  Even the U.S. government agrees that some Saudi figures have been supporting ISIL, or ISIS. But the dodge has always been that, well it’s just some rogue Princes, using their cut of the oil money to do whatever they like, but actually the government disapproves. But that email says that no, it is the governments of Saudi and Qatar that have been funding ISIS… Libya, more than anyone else’s war, was Hillary Clinton’s war. Barak Obama initially opposed it. Who was the person championing it?  Hillary Clinton.  That’s documented throughout her emails. She had put her favoured agent, Sidney Blumenthal, on to that; there’s more than 1700 emails out of the thirty three thousand Hillary Clinton emails that we’ve published, just about Libya. It’s not that Libya has cheap oil. She perceived the removal of Gaddafi and the overthrow of the Libyan state – something that she would use in her run-up to the general election for President.  So in late 2011 there is an internal document called the Libya Tick Tock that was produced for Hillary Clinton, and it’s the chronological description of how she was the central figure in the destruction of the Libyan state, which resulted in around 40,000 deaths within Libya; jihadists moved in, ISIS moved in, leading to the European refugee and migrant crisis. Not only did you have people fleeing Libya, people fleeing Syria, the destabilisation of other African countries as a result of arms flows, but the Libyan state itself…was no longer able to control the movement of people through it. Libya faces along to the Mediterranean and had been effectively the cork in the bottle of Africa. So all problems, economic problems and civil war in Africa – previously people fleeing those problems didn’t end up in Europe because Libya policed the Mediterranean. That was said explicitly at the time, back in early 2011 by Gaddafi:  ‘What do these Europeans think they’re doing, trying to bomb and destroy the Libyan State? There’s going to be floods of migrants out of Africa and jihadists into Europe’, and this is exactly what happened.

Say what you will about Putin, the plain fact is that Moscow does not publicly stone and behead women for things as offensive as atheism, witchcraft, adultery, and homosexuality as these Clinton Foundation clients do. Let’s just put those things into perspective while we are on the topic of foreign entanglements, business connections, and political corruption stemming from it. This Putin-phobia is senseless and dangerous for several reasons. 

  • If we blame the Russians for Hillary Clinton’s loss, that means it is not her fault that she ran the worst presidential campaign in recent memory that included Bill Clinton and John Podesta both encouraging Donald Trump to run for office and the media to focus all their attention on that particular “pied piper” candidate. It creates an opening for Clinton to run for office in 2020 (dear God save us). It also effectively and efficiently negates everything Clinton did to Bernie Sanders and his legions of supporters. Ergo when you say Putin did something to the election, you actually say Bernie would not have won. And I know a few people who would beg to differ there…
  • If we insist the Kremlin impacted out ballot boxes, it means that racist voter ID laws, gerrymandering, interstate cross-check, and prison disenfranchisement did not. When you say Putin hacked our votes, you deny the fact that our elections are run by political hacks.
  • If we continue to roar about how Vladimir Putin snuck into a swing state polling place and played around with some decisive pieces of paper, we are saying we want the Democratic Party, the party of war and Wall Street, to take charge of this situation and make everything better. I don’t know about you but, after how our local super-delegates ran things last summer at the convention, I don’t think I want to give them anything other than the boot in 2018, preferably with the help of the Green, Libertarian, and Reform Parties. We need to continue to be ungovernable and bringing Putin into the conversation will make us governable. No thanks.
  • In 1945, America was about to go through a minor cultural revolution where women, gays, and ethnic minorities would stop being treated like trash. But thanks to Harry Truman and Joe McCarthy, it took another generation for these things to happen. When you mention the Kremlin, you say you want to smother the spirit of Occupy Providence, Black Lives Matter/Movement for Black Lives, and the anti-fracking movement in the name of…Jim Langevin and Sheldon Whitehouse?! Really?!
  • At the end of the Red Scare, the State Department and other federal offices were totally purged of everyone who had any on-the-ground experience in Asia during the Second World War. This was because, after having poured millions of dollars into the treasury of Chiang Kai Shek, the entire American government was dumbstruck in 1948 when Mao Zedong proclaimed the foundation of the People’s Republic of China. Rather than admit what Douglas McArthur conceded, that Chiang Kai Shek was a corrupt fool of a military tactician, instead the Republicans claimed the Democrats, loaded to the brim with Commie double agents, had intentionally allowed Mao to take power and thereby “lost” China. Fifteen years later, when McCarthy was dead and forgotten, John F. Kennedy began to make idiotic mistake after idiotic mistake in a Russian client state called Vietnam. Anyone who has read David Halberstam’s classic and devastating The Best and the Brightest knows what I mean, paranoia over Russian espionage ultimately causes a blowback that ripples across the generations. Jimmy Carter’s similar antagonism of the Kremlin during his presidency resulted in Osama bin Laden learning everything he ever wanted to know about explosives. The leading scholar on contemporary Russia, Stephen Cohen, has insisted that the road to American national security and stability goes through Moscow, that we need to build an alliance with the Kremlin to deal with truly global issues. For example, we have worked alongside Russian counterparts in a variety of instances when taking on our mutual enemies, such as Daesh and al Queda. America needs to take on climate change and the resulting consequences alongside the country that has the largest amount of oil, natural gas, precious minerals, and fresh water on earth. Right now we find ourselves engaged with a Russian client state in Syria and Moscow’s bordering neighbors in Afghanistan and Iraq. The overwhelming majority of the country is antiwar, something that is a thorn in the side of hawkish Congressional delegates, and so we need to understand that, like in Vietnam, the Russians will play a major role in what happens as American forces are withdrawn from the region, meaning we need their alliance rather than enmity. So far I have been unable to discern anything more awful than socialization between Trump administration officials and their Moscow counterparts.
  • Maybe I’m just a bit out there but Donald Trump has a record of saying he was pro-choice and pro-gay prior to his entry into politics. Mike Pence is an anti-choice anti-gay Catholic quasi-fascist with a history of so many bad policy decisions he actually enabled an HIV outbreak in Indiana. This is the man Democrats want to put into the Oval Office?! Oh yeah, I can’t wait to vote for them in 2018!
  • War with Russia has two end-game goals. The first is to force the Russians to expend tremendous amounts of capital on their military, which is much smaller than ours, at the expense of their social safety net, thereby reducing their living standards. The second is to redistribute taxpayer funds in the United States via what is colloquially known as Pentagon Keynesianism. Rather than finance a Green New Deal to convert our energy infrastructure over to renewable energy, instead we would be investing billions more dollars into a pollution machine which has the largest carbon footprint on the planet. This effectively means every time so-called ‘climate change champion’ Sheldon Whitehouse barks about Putin he is making a total hypocrite of himself.


We are trotting down a very well-worn and repeatedly rotten-resulting road here. I say that we should get off this path and stay ungovernable. The Democrats are entirely and solely responsible for the election of Donald Trump. We should never forgive them this as long as they live. We should not allow ourselves to be played for fools by a manipulative and deceptive media industry with a faux-progressive sheen that aligns with these Democrats and promotes militarism and war with Russia in the name of distraction from their own wrongdoing. Let’s instead given them the misery they deserve. A century ago, a certain Democratic Socialist said in an interview that one must “be as radical as reality itself.” 

Let’s do it.


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Andrew Stewart is a member of the Rhode Island Media Cooperative, an organization created for freelancers by freelancers which you can join for free.


Related Slideshow: PHOTOS: Thousands Rally in RI Against Trump - Jan 2017


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