For many years now I've been observing what I consider to be a very strange social phenomena: As the pace at which the country is moving towards fascism has accelerated, much of the population has remained eerily docile while those who try to organize social justice movements can't seem to find their footing.
Artwork Credit: R_Evolution, by Ghillen Marí.I argue that this is the result of three main obstacles to social justice, and I argue that those obstacles have been put in place deliberately by the Oligarchical ruling elite. The first obstacle has to do with manufactured (or induced) economic insecurity; the second has to do with the effects of corporate/state-sponsored propaganda; the third has to do with a total information awareness surveillance security/police state that actively works to disrupt social justice movements, targeting them from inception.
Before I proceed, let me address the word I used in the first paragraph, fascism, since I'm aware that many readers may be a little perplexed by the use of that word and I don't want it to distract from the discussion...
The way I define it is a situation where corporatist cartels and wealthy individuals have taken over the levers of governmental power and have proceeded to tear down democracy (or whatever there was left), systematically striped citizens off human and constitutional rights, and has established a total-information-awareness surveillance police state in order to subjugate the population to the will of the ruling class.
Some of the obvious consequences of this can be seen in the militarization of the police forces, in the government giving itself the right to detain citizens at will, without due process, and indefinitely, and by claiming the power to conduct extra-judicial assassinations of U.S. citizens. There are many other symptoms, including predatory practices like the exponential increase of forfeitures without due process, the looting of the national treasure by Wall Street with total impunity, for-profit private prisons, the tear down of the public sector in favor of privatization, rampant influence peddling corruption, etc.
I'll revisit this issue below, but in the meantime, let me address some of the key important aspects related to the formation of successful social justice movements.
In the book "Doing Democracy: The MAP Model for Organizing Social Movements", by Bill Moyers, he talks about the social movement strategy:
Social movements involve a long-term struggle between the movement and the powerholders for the hearts, minds, and support of the majority of the population. Before social movements begin, most people are either unaware that a problem exists or don't believe that they can do anything about it. They believe the powerholder's societal myths and support the high-sounding official policies and practices, all of which seem to be consistent with the culture's deeply held held values and beliefs...The emphasis is mine
The strategy of social movements, therefore, is to alert, educate, and win over an ever increasing majority of the public. First the public needs to be convinced that a critical social problem exists. Then it must be convinced that policies need to be changed. And then a majority of people must be mobilized into a force that eventually brings about an acceptable solution.
Let me briefly go back to the issue of rising fascism in this country, as it pertains to one of the most important components of the strategy of social movements: convincing the public that a critical social problem exists. Here's how Chris Hedges describes the "critical social problem:"
Corporations write our legislation. They control our systems of information. They manage the political theater of electoral politics and impose our educational curriculum. They have turned the judiciary into one of their wholly owned subsidiaries. They have decimated labor unions and other independent mass organizations, as well as having bought off the Democratic Party, which once defended the rights of workers. With the evisceration of piecemeal and incremental reform—the primary role of liberal, democratic institutions—we are left defenseless against corporate power.And following that same theme, here's how The Center for Media and Democracy describes the problem, as it relates to ALEC:
Through the corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council, global corporations and state politicians vote behind closed doors to try to rewrite state laws that govern your rights. These so-called "model bills" reach into almost every area of American life and often directly benefit huge corporations.The emphasis is mine
And here's how Heidi Boghosian, executive director of the National Lawyers Guild, describes the situation regarding the surveillance police state:
This book ["Spying on Democracy"] documents the way relentless surveillance makes people in the United States less free. As government agencies shift from investigating criminal activity to preempting it, they have forged close relationships with corporations honing surveillance and intelligence-gathering techniques for use against Americans. By claiming that anyone who questions authority or engages in undesired political speech is a potential terrorist threat, this government-corporate partnership makes a mockery of civil liberties. The examples in these pages show how a free press, our legal system, activists, and other pillars of a democratic society—and even children—suffer as a consequence. As the assault by an alignment of consumer marketing and militarized policing grows, each single act of individual expression or resistance assumes greater importance. As individuals and communities, we need to dismantle this system if we are to restore and protect our civil liberties.Now, at this point I'm going to acknowledge that many readers may take exception with the allegations about the United States having turned into a fascistic Surveillance Police State... My main objective here is not to discount those objections or skepticism about those claims, but to argue that if in fact that is the current situation, then we would be in a similar historical situation when it comes to previous social movements where there was a vast gulf between the perception people had about the system, and the reality.
If so, Bill Moyers offers a possible course of action:
To achieve the goal of winning over and involving the citizenry, social movements need to reframe by exposing and proving to the public that the powerholder's actual policies and programs violate the social myths. The best way to inspire the public to be actively involved in creating social change is to show continuously, over time, the gap between the powerholder's actual policies and programs and the culture's values and beliefs. Highlighting this gap is the most critical consciousness raising work and lies at the center of social movement strategy.The emphasis is mine
This is a key point since it explains why the "powerholder's" or the Police State has historically spend so much effort in disrupting the formation of social justice movements.
From its inception, the FBI has operated on the doctrine that the "preliminary stages of organization and preparation" must be frustrated, well before there is any clear and present danger of "revolutionary radicalism."The emphasis is mine
At its most extreme dimension, political dissidents have been eliminated outright or sent to prison for the rest of their lives. There are quite a number of individuals who have been handled in that fashion.
Many more, however, were "neutralized" by intimidation, harassment, discrediting, snitch jacketing, a whole assortment of authoritarian and illegal tactics.
I argue that this effort by the security/intelligence apparatus has not only continued, it has actually become more entrenched and endemic.
BuzzFeed / Michael Hastings: "Congressmen Seek To Lift Propaganda Ban."There are many other multiple sources of information about the scope of surveillance, propaganda, and disruptive tactics by the Corporate State, including The Center for Media and Democracy report "Dissent Or Terror" (in PDF).
In December, the Pentagon used software to monitor the Twitter debate over Bradley Manning’s pre-trial hearing; another program being developed by the Pentagon would design software to create “sock puppets” on social media outlets; and, last year, General William Caldwell, deployed an information operations team under his command that had been trained in psychological operations to influence visiting American politicians to Kabul.
Let's put aside for a second the issue of whether the reader agrees with my conclusions regarding the true nature of the system. Would it be fair to assume that most readers by now understand that there is indeed something wrong with the system, and if so, are Bill Moyer's prescriptions regarding the steps necessary for the formation of a successful social justice movement, reasonable?
If so (if the reader agrees with that), then the need of "exposing and proving to the public that the powerholder's actual policies and programs violate the social myths" gains greater importance.
And that is why the examination of the causes of oppression is essential for the success of the movement.
And if this is true, then I would argue that those who seek to purposely bifurcate social justice activism between practical every-day concerns (survival, shelter, food, employment) vs. exposing the true nature of the system (NSA spying, corruption, fascism) are themselves engaging in harmful propaganda in favor of the status quo.
In other words, you can't have a successful social justice movement unless there is an intellectual component behind it; they go hand in hand.
Again, from Bill Moyer's book:
The strategy of social movements, therefore, is to alert, educate, and win over an ever increasing majority of the public. First the public needs to be convinced that a critical social problem exists. Then it must be convinced that policies need to be changed. And then a majority of people must be mobilized into a force that eventually brings about an acceptable solution.The emphasis is mine
What is especially harmful and propagandist is to reduce the argument in such a fashion that uses an extreme example where those who have fallen into poverty and face dire conditions related to food and shelter and survival can't be expected to worry about esoteric issues like the root causes for social dysfunction.
Artwork credit:Science Undermined by Goñi Montes.First of all, it is false dichotomy, and it meets the definition of a Straw Man: "Creates the illusion of having refuted a proposition by replacing it with a superficially similar yet unequivalent proposition."
It's not only a straw man, it is actually an invisible man; it does not exist. There is no conceivable reason to insist in undermining the importance of fully and accurately understanding exposing the true nature of the system.
Another argument I've seen (which I also consider a straw man) is that those who seek to understand and expose the true nature of the system (which again it is absolutely necessary for a successful social justice movement) are doing more harm than good because they somehow spread a feeling of hopelessness, and furthermore they don't really have any solutions to offer--so why even bother in exposing the true nature of the system.
Again, whether people espousing this view know it or not, I argue that it is also propagandist (maybe internalized, learned, conditioned). In Bill Moyer's "Eight Stages of Successful Social Movements," stage two includes the following: Prove and document the failure of official institutions and powerholders to uphold public trust and values.
In closing, this is why I believe the following quote is so relevant...
“The greatest mistake of the movement has been trying to organize a sleeping people around specific goals. You have to wake the people up first, then you'll get action.”Finally, I leave the reader with this powerful indictment of our system by George Carlin. I believe it matches my critique of the system...
-- Malcom X
For those interested about possible courses of action, I suggest they watch this Chris Hedges interview video:
P.S. There is a small group of 5 to 8 users landing in all my diaries posting dozens of messages, engaging in disruptive behavior with personal insults and logical fallacies. I suggest that those interested in serious discussion ignore them.