Bernie Sanders’ campaign has finally gone full-throat with the obvious: the Democrat-aligned corporate media have thrown all journalistic principles to the wind to impose a “Bernie Blackout.”
How can someone who was the most popular politician in the nation in 2017 be made into a non-person? It’s all intimately entwined with the multiple crises afflicting late stage capitalism.
In the absence of massive, grassroots movements, corporate voices always drown out all the others. Capitalist ownership of the media allows the rich to frame their own worldview as the political “center,” thus relegating contending ideologies to the “extremes” of left or right. In this sense, “centrism” is nothing more than the political position of the corporate owners, who construct media versions of reality that make corporate-concocted policies seem the most logical, commonsensical and socially responsible approach to the world’s problems. As long as the rich can sustain broad public trust in the “truth” of their “journalistic” products -- newspapers, electronic newscasts, books and other media created by professional operatives directly answerable to rich owners – widespread revolt against the corporate order is unlikely.
“Capitalist ownership of the media allows the rich to frame their own worldview as the political ‘center.’”
Most people in all societies want to be perceived -- and to see themselves -- as sensible, responsible and knowledgeable. When polled on political questions, they are eager to give the “correct” (corporate-endorsed) answers. Only the most marginalized, alienated and systematically demonized sectors of society will consistently buck the corporate narrative. In the United States, the biggest historical resistance to the corporate (rich white man’s) worldview has come from Black America, a besieged people with a unique social perspective who were compelled to create their own media in desperate defense of their collective humanity. However, the demise of Jim Crow apartheid and subsequent absorption of many of the “best and brightest” Black minds into corporate service, has dulled Black defenses. After two generations without a mass, grassroots Black movement – a politically desolate period briefly interrupted by the “Black Lives Matter” mobilizations of 2014-15 -- African Americans are also more likely to give the “correct” answers to corporate media surveys.
But not the youth of all races, who know that capitalism, as they experience it, promises them nothing but endless austerity and war. Majorities of young Americans now embrace a version of “socialism” that is actually merely a less vicious capitalism, made kinder by a comprehensive system of social supports – similar to the “social democratic” order in northwestern Europe. But late stage capitalism is relentlessly eviscerating the European model and has no intention of allowing a replica to be erected in the United Corporate States of America, the global headquarters and armory of the Lords of Capital.
“The biggest historical resistance to the corporate (rich white man’s) worldview has come from Black America, a besieged people with a unique social perspective.”
Late stage capitalism is beset with accumulated contradictions that allow it no option but to conscript the whole world into a Race to the Bottom. This vast army of precarity must include many of the previously imperially-privileged classes – white people whose entire personal identities are entwined with empire and their right to share in the spoils of conquest. As rulers of the oldest and most successful white settler state, U.S. oligarchs cannot find the language to tell their white subjects that the implicit imperial contract has been terminated -- a fact that should have been obvious over two generations of deindustrialization.
In addition to being eclipsed on the world stage by a Chinese command economy that continues to expand even when the rest of the world is in deep recession, the Lords of Capital face an internal crisis that is both general and racial. American rulers must convince a multiracial imperial population to take its place in the Race to the Bottom – including a white majority that thought it was sitting on top of the world.
“U.S. oligarchs cannot find the language to tell their white subjects that the implicit imperial contract has been terminated.”
The megalomaniacal hustler-capitalist Donald Trump jumped into the systemic late capitalist contradiction with racist, gleeful abandon in 2016. Speaking the plain language of white supremacy, Trump promised to put “America First” and avoid entanglements with the darker races of the world -- the “shit-hole” people. By throwing red meat to his fellow racists, Trump massacred his dog-whistling opponents in the established Republican Party. At first, the Democratic half of the corporate duopoly was ecstatic. They thought Trump would appeal to only a minority of whites, allowing the Democrats to pick up tens of millions of “moderate” Republicans while scaring Blacks and Latinos to vote Democrat in huge numbers. But the moderate Republicans were as mythical as the “moderate” U.S.-backed jihadists in Syria. Trump won solid majorities of whites, including white women, and took the presidency.
Trump’s triumph threw the rulers into confusion and disarray. By Election Day, most of the ruling class and their national security state were clustered in one party, the Democrats. They had lost control of half the governing duopoly, and Sanders, an anti-austerity candidate who was less enthusiastic about eternal warfare, had come close to winning on the Democratic side. The Lords of Capital had thought the “deplorable” Trump would be their straw man who presented enough threat to Black and Latino America and “decent” whites that the masses would gladly follow enlightened corporate (Democratic) direction and file into line for the global Race to the Bottom. But the 2016 election showed that the majority of white Americans want restoration of white privilege (as if it ever expired), including good “white” jobs. Many of them of them have already been running the Race to the Bottom, and demand that the nation rescue them by any means necessary. And they were not nearly as deeply invested in foreign wars as had been assumed.
“The moderate Republicans were as mythical as the ‘moderate’ U.S.-backed jihadists in Syria.”
The crises of late stage capitalism had suddenly multiplied in the belly of the imperial beast. On top of everything else, the system was suffering a crisis of legitimacy: nobody believed the official narrative anymore. Corporate warmonger Hillary Clinton was a world class loser; the maddeningly unpredictable Donald Trump had gone from fodder for ridicule to Commander-in-Chief of the empire; and self-styled socialist Bernie Sanders was the most-favored U.S politician – not thanks to his looks or charm, but because he championed BIG health, education and labor programs supported by supermajorities of the people. For the first time in neoliberal era history, the Race to the Bottom – the general blueprint of late stage capitalism -- was in trouble in the imperial headquarters country.
The rulers have not handled the multi-crisis well. With the national security state on point, the Russiagate scam has vastly worsened the U.S. regime’s already existing crisis of legitimacy. In the attempt to wound, weaken and control Trump, the Democrat-aligned political operatives and their media have savaged the Office of the President and made half of Americans believe the U.S. electoral system can be decisively subverted by actors half a world away with an ad budget of $100,000. What kind of superpower is that?
Corporate media has ruined itself, abandoning every artifice of “objectivity’” crafted over generations to convince the people that corporate journalism can be trusted as an arbiter of truth -- a Humpty-Dumpty that can never be put back together again. The half of white America that supports Trump will never believe anything reported on anti-Trump media – a huge and irreparable crisis of legitimacy for the system as a whole.
“The Russiagate scam has vastly worsened the U.S. regime’s already existing crisis of legitimacy.”
Yes, the Left – what there is of it – will have to figure out alternative ways to communicate and organize now that Internet algorithms are openly rigged and Facebook has become a hostile environment, especially for Black speech. But, Russiagate has stripped the ruling class’s legitimacy-sustaining tools of all credibility, and they can’t buy it back.
The rulers have turned the same machinery against Bernie Sanders. The New York Times and the Washington Post, the premier opinion molders of the corporate press, every day run front-page stories on the Democratic presidential race that either malign Sanders or pretend he doesn’t exist. As Sanders speechwriter David Sirota pointed out, when CNN commissioned a poll that showed Sanders in first place in New Hampshire, the news network put up a graphic that showed him in second place.
The corporate media methodically try to confuse the public about the cost and benefits of Medicare For All, free public higher education and the rest of Sanders’ signature proposals, seeking to render him a non-person with an illegitimate program. But, in doing so, they further erode their own legitimacy, and their usefulness to their masters, the Lords of Capital, who have no vision for the future except the Race to the Bottom.
Tens of millions of Americans now know that the Democrats are a bastion of corporate greed and war, the Republicans are the White Man’s Party, and the corporate media tell lies for a living. Late stage capitalism has derelict institutions as defenders.