by Paul C. Bermanzohn
The deepening crisis of an illegitimate system that only serves the rich has caused a section of the ruling class to charge a sitting president -- one of their own! -- with the political crime of illegitimacy. The “fake news” imbroglio is phony excuse for keeping the United States on a permanent war footing.
“Fake News” Crisis Covers Deeper Crisis of Legitimacy
by Paul C. Bermanzohn
“By attributing Trump’s electoral victory to the foreign meddling, the report undermined his legitimacy.”
As Trump’s inauguration approached, we heard a growing chorus that the new president is illegitimate. Congress members and the intelligence services publicly raised matters that undermine the credibility of the incoming administration.
How can a president be legitimate when the system is itself illegitimate?
Trump was elected by the rules, which are not democratic. The rules specify that the Electoral College decides, not the popular vote. So, according to the system, Trump was elected fairly.
James Madison wrote the Constitution to protect the wealthy minority from the poor majority. He expressly intended for the federal system to prevent “insurrection.” (see Federalist Paper number 10, titled “The Utility of the Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection.” It’s a worthwhile read for those seeking to understand today’s system.)
The venerated Constitution was created to ensure the continuation of slavery, the basis of the world capitalist economy of the time. The founding documents do not deserve respect. The US government has always been a tool of capital.
In recent years faith in this corrupt system has been waning. Critics of the system have successfully pointed out how the US is not a democracy. Now we hear the media screaming to stop “fake news.” Millions of Americans are awakening to the fact that the rich rule over us and use their rule to drain the lifeblood out of us.
“The US government has always been a tool of capital.”
US democracy is a most consoling illusion. But people have no real power. The rich use their control of the political process to strengthen their hold and to facilitate their robbery. People are willing to put up with the misery we suffer if we believe our suffering grows out of an essentially just arrangement.
As people awaken to the system’s essential unfairness, they are increasingly motivated to fight to change the prevailing arrangements.
What does this have to do with the fake news crisis? Let’s review the steps in this fast-moving saga.
1. Shortly after Trump’s surprising election victory, the Washington Post, a key defender of the capitalist order, published a Thanksgiving Day report suggesting that over 200 websites had been receiving Russian support to criticize US institutions and were “routine peddlers of Russian propaganda during the election season.” The Post called for these putative Russian agents to be targeted by US intelligence agencies, accusing the websites of spreading “fake news.”
It was a call to battle against those media outlets that have led the way in exposing the true nature of American capitalism. The official media wants to put the genie back in the bottle by discrediting those who speak the truth.
2. On Nov. 31, the Post reported that Congress was poised to pass a bill to “monitor and counter foreign propaganda and disinformation.”
3. On Dec. 5th, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube announced they were joining forces “to more quickly identify the worst terrorist propaganda and prevent it from spreading online.”
The digital companies made clear they are on board with keeping the people in line.
“The official media wants to put the genie back in the bottle by discrediting those who speak the truth.”
4. Around Christmas, Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act approving over $611 billion to the US Military for 2017. Buried in this year’s version was the Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act to set up a “Global Engagement Center,” to counter “foreign disinformation and manipulation,” which the government says, threaten the world’s “security and stability.”
The NDAA has been used before to deliver veiled attacks on civil liberties. In 2011 the NDAA authorized indefinite detention of anyone deemed a terrorism suspect.
5. January 5, the top intelligence officials briefed President Obama and President-elect Trump on the alleged Russian hacks of the US elections.
Trump had earlier reduced the frequency of his intelligence briefings, from daily reports to “as needed.” Daily summaries were unnecessary, he said. His stance was interpreted as “feuding with intelligence” (an interesting phrase) or as merely his continued posturing as an outsider.
A declassified version of the briefing was released saying that the election results had been affected by Russian hacks. This allegation was treated as established fact, in no need of proof.
Trump dismissed the briefing, saying there was nothing new. He used it as yet another opportunity to denigrate the intelligence agencies; he had no choice. By attributing Trump’s electoral victory to the foreign meddling, the report undermined his legitimacy. Trump had no alternative but to criticize it. This increased the animosity between the President-elect and his secret police.
5a. A few days later, the Washington Post and CNN reported that the intelligence agencies alleged that Russia had “compromising material” it could use to blackmail Trump. The intelligence heads who met with Trump gave him a 2-page memo that the Russians had information that might serve to “undermine Trump’s authority” should it be released. They claimed they were looking into allegations that the Russians had information that would “compromise” Trump if it were released.
In this latest piece of news the intelligence agencies try to appear as Trump’s protectors, intent on defending him against those pesky Russians. But this claim, it must be noted, also suggests that Trump is vulnerable to blackmail and hence not legitimate.
“The intelligence agencies alleged that Russia had “compromising material” it could use to blackmail Trump.”
The rulers and their intelligence services are trying to find a way to deal with the uncomfortable reality that this new president was elected largely because he insisted he will attack the corrupt system from the top. This promise is highly suspect as President-elect Trump nominated a host of billionaires to serve as his Cabinet.
But the basic problem the powers-that-be face is far more troubling and difficult than dealing with the unpredictable Trump. The American people are waking from their slumber and a revolutionary crisis may yet develop in the Homeland, the heartland of world capitalism. The rulers have much to fear from this awakening. They have a lot to lose.
How will they, and he, work out their differences to protect the collective interests of their class? Along with watching to see if Trump delivers on his vows to reduce US wars and increase US jobs, this will be a key story to watch as the Trump administration takes charge. Or will there be a deep state coup as some predict? In either case, revolutionaries will have more to do than watch TV.
The author is working on a book to be entitled Decoding the Matrix: A Preliminary History of the US Propaganda System.