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 Donald Trump greets supporters after a rally in Mobile, Alabama. (Photo: Mark Wallheiser/Getty)

The Oligarchy is Using Our Lizard Brain to Enable a Silent Coup

All is not well in the home of the brave scared witless

John Atcheson

Once again, the fear machine is going into full force as the Presidential primary campaign heats up. 

If there’s one thing the politicians in general and Republicans in particular don’t want, it’s people going to the polls with their wits about them. They need people to think and vote with their limbic lizard brains, not their prefrontal cortex.

And nothing short-circuits reason as well as fear. This tired tactic should be played out by now. Remember those bogus color-coded terrorist alerts back in the 2004 Bush campaign?  Or the sudden increase in talk of terrorism in 2008?  And the attempted reprise in 2012?

Call it Willie Horton Redux. 

But once again, here in the home of the brave, Americans are cowering in their basements from trumped up threats about terrorism, while plutocrats and fat cats take advantage of their fear-addled state to slip their favorite errand boys – and girls – into the election. Of course, the corporate-owned press is aiding and abetting this silent coup.

Too bad.  Because in Bernie Sanders, for the first time in a very long time, we have a real choice between the same old corporate lackeys and a genuine candidate of the people.

"There is a real existential threat to our democracy, but it’s an inside job."

The reality is, terrorism is a nuisance, not a threat to our way of life.  Statistically, it poses about the same danger as falling furniture. And it has no chance of overturning our government. None.  

There is a real existential threat to our democracy, but it’s an inside job. Since 1980, fat cats and plutocrats have been stripping away our money and our freedoms, with a well-orchestrated campaign to discredit government, so they can change the rules to benefit themselves. 

With primaries looming, all but Sanders have hopped aboard the fear train with a relief bordering on glee. In the press and the debates – especially the Republican debates – it’s all terrorism, all the time.

Here’s what the fear mongers don’t want you to think about:

  • New analysis by economists Saez, Zucman, and Piketty found that since 1980, the average income for the top 10% grew three times faster than for the rest of us – which grew a scant .07%;
  • In the same time period, the average income for the top 1% grew four times as fast as for the 99%;
  • The top 10% now take home half of all income;
  • And it’s getting worse – since 2009, 58% of all income growth has gone to the top 10%;
  • When it comes to net wealth, the divide is even starker. The 20 richest people in the country now have as much wealth as the bottom 50% of Americans.

The plutocrats and fat cats are using that money to conduct a silent coup. Our freedom and our way of life isn’t threatened by Muslim terrorists or immigrants or un-American socialists.  It’s threatened by the moneyed interests.  

"The fact is, under the fog of fear, we are being sold a bill of goods even as we dismantle the Bill of Rights." By any standard, the US is no longer a Democracy, it’s an Oligarchy.  And their tactics – control the media, discredit and underfund government, champion free markets as the source of all good things – have been carried out through a well-thought out and well-funded campaign.  It has been extraordinarily effective. 

It began in 1980 when Reagan rolled back regulations designed to prevent media monopolies and assure equal time for differing perspectives. Today, just six corporations control 90% of the mainstream media outlets; corporations and think tanks write their own legislation; several recent Supreme Court rulings have given corporations unprecedented control of elections; and as for the will of the people? It’s all but ignored by lawmakers.  Some examples from the past few years:

The fact is, under the fog of fear, we are being sold a bill of goods even as we dismantle the Bill of Rights. 

"As long as the oligarchy can keep people using their primitive lizard-brain, folks won’t be using their rational brain."

Austerity budgets and trickle down economics still dominate national economic discourse despite overwhelming empirical evidence showing they don’t work. 

Anti-government rhetoric still carries credence with most voters, even though real data clearly shows that government regulation of the economy up until 1980 resulted in prosperity and an equitable distribution of wealth, and absence of government regulations since then has contributed to massive income transfers from the middle class and poor, to the top 1%. Oh, it also worked to save the environment, protect workers, ensure the safety of our food and workplace, and discover most breakthroughs in the field of human health.

Seems like supporting a progressive candidate like Bernie Sanders – who’s not beholden to the fat cats and plutocrats that are screwing us – would be a no-brainer.

But then, that’s the point.  As long as the oligarchy can keep people using their primitive lizard-brain, folks won’t be using their rational brain. 

Unfortunately, here in the land of the formerly brave, that’s all too easy.


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John Atcheson

John Atcheson

John Atcheson, 1948-2020, was a long-time Common Dreams contributor, climate activist and author of, "A Being Darkly Wise, and a book on our fractured political landscape entitled, "WTF, America? How the US Went Off the Rails and How to Get It Back On Track". Follow him on Twitter @john_atcheson. John was tragically killed in a California car accident in January 2020.

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