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The Oligarchs have accumulated massive power, all at the expense of the people. (Photo: Sergii Kharchenko/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The Oligarchs have accumulated massive power, all at the expense of the people. (Photo: Sergii Kharchenko/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

When the Fringe Is Mainstream and the Mainstream Is Fringe: On Orwell and US Oligarchy

The Democratic Party and the mainstream press are doing their best to make all records tell the same tale, and they’re doing it as part of a systematic coup by the oligarchy that has been four decades in the making.

John Atcheson

In 1984, George Orwell said, “And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth.”

The Democratic Party and the mainstream press are doing their best to make all records tell the same tale, and they’re doing it as part of a systematic coup by the oligarchy that has been four decades in the making. 

For example, today, both the press and the Democratic Party leadership routinely represent issues and policies that are preferred by the vast majority of Americans—often beliefs held by Democrats, Independents and Republicans alike—as “fringe.”  Here’s a few examples that are regularly described as fringe, or far left or some other, similar epithet:

These issues are popular, despite the fact that most of the press, and the leadership of the Democratic Party routinely mischaracterize them as outside the mainstream, and Republicans essentially call them everything from demonic to communistic.  Imagine how popular they would be with an impartial press and a supportive Democratic Party.

But the Orwellian reality is, each of these issues have been labeled as “extreme” or “fringe” by the mainstream media and the neoliberals in charge of the Democratic party.  A quick look at the definition of fringe—“not part of the mainstream; unconventional, peripheral, extreme” reveals how our media and political leaders have embraced a form of Orwellian Newspeak. If a majority embraces a policy, how can it be peripheral?  Who has the power to declare it “extreme” if it’s supported by the mainstream?  Doesn’t the mainstream decide what is part of the mainstream, and what is extreme?

Not according to the neoliberals in charge of the Democratic Party and the media. 

With one party—the Democrats—rejecting popular policies and embracing unpopular ones on behalf of the rich, while the other is embracing a cult of hate, fear and blame, elections are reduced to a contest between the deliberately ignored and the passionately ignorant.

And this explains Trump.  With one party—the Democrats—rejecting popular policies and embracing unpopular ones on behalf of the rich, while the other is embracing a cult of hate, fear and blame, elections are reduced to a contest between the deliberately ignored and the passionately ignorant.  Not surprisingly, too many of those who are being ignored don’t show up to vote, while those who are being fueled by a perverted sense of populist rage do.

At various times in our history, the balance in the war between the oligarchs favoring an economy uber alles approach to governance, and those advocating for a government of the people, not just the privileged, has been tipped in favor of the people. The progressive era in the early 20th Century and the New Deal are some recent periods when that was so, and both eras produced laws that provided for a more equitable distribution of wealth, greater freedom for individuals, and less power ceded to corporations.

But the oligarchy launched a coup based on a blueprint of sorts laid out by Lewis Powell in a memo authored in 1971, in which he said:

Business must learn the lesson . . . that political power is necessary; that such power must be assiduously cultivated; and that when necessary, it must be used aggressively and with determination—without embarrassment and without the reluctance which has been so characteristic of American business.

The coup was launched when Reagan was elected in 1980, and Newspeak began in earnest. The government—formerly the check on corporate power and the safeguard of individual freedoms—became the enemy, and corporations—which had oppressed labor and absconded with wealth—became the provider of all good things with trickle down and supply side chicanery.

The forces of a new move toward a progressive populism are struggling to gain traction, and pull the pendulum back toward a just, rational, and sustainable society – one that isn’t threatened with existential crises like climate change and extreme wealth disparity.

This is the greatest story of our time—it beats even a man-bites dog story, because it is, literally, a man-bites-man story.  But the forces of the status quo are doing their best to assure that it goes unreported, or that it is reduced to a mere political struggle between two differing ideologies—both legitimate—and applicable only to an upcoming election.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  The Oligarchs have accumulated massive power, all at the expense of the people. The Institutions we rely on to keep us free have been taken over, and the thin parchment paper that enumerates those freedoms has no effect without the goodwill of our leaders and the vigilance of the people.

But with leaders like Moscow Mitch, Donald Trump, and his ilk, there is precious little goodwill and if the people allow another neoliberal like Biden to claim the mantle of the leader of the progressive majority there is even less vigilance.

George Orwell said, "A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves and traitors are not victims, but accomplices."

In 1984, he also said,

Now I will tell you the answer to my question. It is this. The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power.

The question for the American people is will they be accomplices, or will they take on the combined forces of the press and the neoliberals and seize back the power they relinquished to the oligarchy?


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
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". John was tragically killed in a California car accident in January 2020.

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