“The discourse on sexual assault has been kept a bourgeois affair.”
It started with Hollywood capitalist Harvey Weinstein and spread to Washington DC and the corporate media. One by one, elite politicians and media celebrities found themselves on the receiving end of accusations of sexual assault. Sexual assault is a serious problem, one that cuts across class lines. However, it is the system of imperialism and private property ruled over by a tiny corporate elite that makes sexual assault such a mass problem. The ruling class is attempting to cover its own crisis-ridden tracks by exploiting the issue, despite being at the center of it.
Sexual violence and rape are products of imperialism. Forced reproduction and sterilization were key components of the enslavement of Africans and the genocide of Native Americans that brought super profits to the North American mainland beginning some three hundred plus years ago. These forms of violence have remained on the imperial agenda ever since. The ruling class has employed the armed bodies of the state to rape and pillage entire nations, including the bodies of colonized men, women, and children. Of course, this is not the type of sexual assault that the corporate media pays attention to.
“Forced reproduction and sterilization were key components of the enslavement of Africans and the genocide of Native Americans.”
So it should come as no surprise that elites of every persuasion in US society are using sex as a form of violence and coercion. Doing so is simply business as usual for an imperialist system that is completely reliant upon violence to bring fortunes to those who rule it. However, the issue has been made a corporate media spectacle. No mention is made of the sexual abuse and violence experienced by poor, migrant workers or Black Americans at the hands of law enforcement. The discourse on sexual assault has been kept a bourgeois affair.
This bourgeois affair is motivated by a variety of interests, none of them geared toward improving the lives of the increasingly impoverished and oppressed masses. The coverage has created the illusion that cutting the careers of a handful of elites short somehow amounts to justice. In reality, it merely reinforces the myth that the system of imperialism can correct itself. That, in the age of Trump, "clean-cut" and "sophisticated" imperialism still exists disguised in the uniform of liberal democracy. Non-stop coverage of the sexual scandals has become entertainment in and of itself, packaged as a product to be bought and sold.
“No mention is made of the sexual abuse and violence experienced by poor, migrant workers or Black Americans at the hands of law enforcement.”
The question that is not being asked is why these stories have amassed so much attention from the rulers themselves. The corporate media is not accountable to the people, not least to the victims of sexual assault. It is accountable solely to the profit and legitimacy of their owners and protectors in Washington. However, many people, especially women, have felt empowered by the exposure of sexual assault from the numerous scandals reported. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t more to the moment than what appears on the surface.
What lies beneath the corporate media scandal machine is a crumbling empire. The US empire is a design drawn from capitalist relations. Such relations include the intense monopolization of industry and the privatization of all public life. Immense poverty has followed, along with a multi-faceted war of social control felt hardest by Black Americans but generalized across the entire population in the form of surveillance. These conditions have spurred a domestic and international crisis of legitimacy.
“Non-stop coverage of the sexual scandals has become entertainment in and of itself.”
The crisis hit a low point economically in 2008, and the system has shown no signs that it will recover. Unemployment remains chronic and the capitalists are busy working on the newest advances in technology that will increase their profits at the expense of everyone else. The rulers have attempted to offset crisis by scorching the earth with war. Libya, Syria, Ukraine, Honduras and countless other nations have all seen conditions worsen due to the empire's violent assault on their sovereignty. The rulers hope that by weakening smaller nations it can isolate the rising powers of Russia and China -- with little success thus far.
So when megalomaniac billionaire Donald Trump emerged as the victor of the last Presidential election, the rulers panicked. They devised a plan and they devised it quick. The plan was for Trump to be painted as a proxy for Russia. This narrative would convince the masses that the US system of governance was being undermined by a foreign power. Because only foreign interference could justify why the much maligned Donald Trump ended up in the POTUS seat. More importantly, the Trump-Russia connection story laid further basis for a grand military confrontation with Russia, something the military industrial complex has been working on since the formation of NATO during the Soviet period.
“The rulers have attempted to offset crisis by scorching the earth with war.”
Well over a year has passed, however, and the Trump-Russia connection story has yet to yield definitive proof. Born in the bowels of the Deep State, the spooks of the seventeen intelligence agencies so interested in extending the Presidential elections have failed to provide a shred of evidence to back up claims that Russia meddled in the 2016 elections. What they have done is create an atmosphere of fear to achieve extra-legal, extrajudicial objectives. Russia remains mired in US-sponsored sanctions, NATO continues its build-up along the Russian border, and the Trump Administration has been beset by what appears to be an endless investigation against it to keep the narrative alive.
Narratives, accusations, and claims do not put food on the table or assets in the bank. They don't provide protection from police brutality or homes for the homeless. They don't alleviate a trillion dollars in US student loan debt. And they definitely do not bring living-wage jobs and a decent standard of living. In fact, the anti-Russia madness that has captured political discourse in Washington achieves the exact opposite by laying a clear path to war with a nuclear power.
“The Trump-Russia connection story laid further basis for a grand military confrontation with Russia.”
This ensures one thing, and one thing only: that even more money will be poured into wars instead of the needs of the people. The GOP tax bill is not the only policy that is redistributing wealth from the bottom of society to the top. A bi-partisan renewal of the National Defense Authorization Act back in September guaranteed over 700 billion to the Pentagon, nearly sixty billion more than what Trump requested. With the US empire committed to attacking the poor at home and abroad, sexual assault tabloid stories become all the more useful as a cover from accountability.
That doesn’t mean that questions of misogyny, rape, and sexual assault are not important ones. It means that these questions cannot be divorced from the history of the class struggle. Race and class oppression are driving forces for all phenomena. When the conditions of the poor and oppressed are ignored, a complete understanding of a given question becomes impossible. And that is just how the ruling class likes it. Instead of a conversation about the pervasiveness of sexual abuse experienced by the exploited and what role it plays in the reproduction of exploitation generally, we are stuck worrying about whether the behavior of individual elites will change if punished.
It cannot be forgotten that the behavior of the ruling class is motivated by class interests and nothing else. Rulers do not change unless forced to by the dissolution of their power. The ruling class is a parasite to humanity, perpetually looting the masses for profit. This was demonstrated when, after the fall of the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe became a leading regional player in the sex trafficking of children around the world. Only the replacement of capitalism and imperialism with socialism can eradicate the misery and suffering imposed on the people, sexual assault included.
“With the US empire committed to attacking the poor at home and abroad, sexual assault tabloid stories become all the more useful as a cover from accountability.”
Yet the major focus of the corporate media is a hunt for predators of two kinds. One is based in a distorted reality and the other is a myth. The first kind of predator is the celebrity politician or media star committing sexual assault. This kind of predator is real, but the reality of the situation is distorted by the corporate media. These celebrities are being punished for their individual behavior when in fact the rape they impose on the people is an inherent feature to the system of imperialism they control. The second, the threat of Russian interference in US politics, is a myth. One has to question why Russia, with a relatively vulnerable capitalist economy currently under attack by the US, would have any interest in provoking the beast that seeks to annihilate it.
The two varying predator narratives serve the imperial agenda albeit in their own way. That agenda is crumbling under the weight of US imperialism's heightened contradictions. Endless war and austerity is the only future the empire can provide to the masses. The majority of humanity is sick of it, leaving the empire stripped of its political legitimacy. Sexual assault scandals and anti-Russian hysterics cannot arrest the inevitable. It is only a matter of time before the corporate media and its masters will have to confront the poor, oppressed, and starved masses they have forsaken for so long.
Danny Haiphong is a Vietnamese-American activist and political analyst in the Boston area. He can be reached at [email protected]