Do U.S. Oligarchs Exist? Not in Mainstream Media

We hear incessantly about Russian oligarchs. But do they also exist in the United States? You wouldn’t know it by watching cable news, says Jeff Cohen.

By Jeff Cohen

TV news shows are good at getting viewers riled up. Day and night, I hear the anchors on CNN and MSNBC getting us in a frenzy about the schemes of this or that “Russian oligarch with links to the Kremlin.” I’ve heard that phrase incessantly in recent weeks

Plenty of others have heard the “Russian oligarch” phrase. Merriam-Webster.com reported that “oligarch” was one of its most searched-for words on April 5 “following reports that Robert Mueller had questioned Russian businessmen to whom this descriptor applies.”

Webster’s defines oligarchy as a “government in which a small group exercises control especially for corrupt and selfish purposes.” Dictionary.com calls it “a form of government in which all power is vested in a few persons or in a dominant class or clique; government by the few.” So an oligarch is not just a rich person but one who has influence or control over government, rather than directly ruling, as in a plutocracy.

One phrase I haven’t heard from any of the purportedly progressive hosts on MSNBC is: “A U.S. oligarch with links to Washington.”

That avoidance is revealing when one considers an indisputable fact: U.S. oligarchs have done far more to undermine U.S. democracy than any Russian.

When Vladimir Putin first became Russian president in the early 2000s he made a deal with the oligarchs: he would leave them alone if they kept their noses out of politics. Hence they would revert to just being filthy rich. The oligarchs who remained are presumably loyal to Putin, or at least don’t try to dominate him, the way some powerfully rich Americans seek to influence the U.S. government away from what it might otherwise do.

A List

Here is a 2014 list compiled by the Brookings Institution of the 20

Bezos: A U.S. oligarch with a fat CIA contract and a pretty big newspaper.

“Most Influential Billionaires Behind The Scenes of US Politics,” who could otherwise be called U.S. oligarchs. But they aren’t called that by mainstream media, and that’s telling. Rupert Murdoch, Jeff Bezos, the Koch brothers (and Donald Trump, who made the list) all have exercised undue influence on government for their own interests, and not necessarily the public’s. Let’s take a close look at one U.S. oligarch who didn’t make the list. 

Brian L. Roberts – who certainly fits the Cambridge English dictionary definition of “oligarch” as “one of a small group of powerful people who control a country or an industry.” As chair and CEO of Comcast, Roberts runs the company his dad founded and has sole voting rights over one-third of the corporation’s stock. His annual compensation last year of $28.6 million was less than what 14 other U.S. oligarchs – I mean, CEOs – “earned.” His net worth is estimated to be over $1.65 billion. 

Does this oligarch have “links to Washington”? In one recent year, Comcast devoted nearly $19 million to lobbying, second only to military-industrial firm Northrop Grumman. Last year, it spent more than $15 million. And oligarch Roberts has been a top D.C. power player for decades, having gotten his way with one president after another – from President Clinton’s deregulatory, anti-consumer Telecommunications Act of 1996 to President Trump’s current effort to end Net Neutrality on behalf of Comcast and other giant Internet providers.

President Bill Clinton’s pro-conglomeration Telcom Act and Donald Trump’s Net Neutrality assault have both undermined U.S. democracy. No Russian had a hand in it. (You may have heard that the Trump-propagandist Sinclair Broadcast Group will soon own more than 200 local TV stations; until the Telcom Act, a company could legally own no more than 12.)    

You’ve got to hand it to U.S. oligarchs; so many of them stay on top no matter which party runs Washington. They sure have greater staying power than Russian oligarchs – who, we’re constantly told, end up dead or in prison if they fall out of favor with President Putin.

Roberts certainly has the lifestyle of an oligarch. He maintains a seasonal dacha – I mean, second home – in Martha’s Vineyard where he keeps his custom-built Sparkman & Stephens sloops, and where he has hosted President Obama, including at an A-list cocktail party  thrown for Obama in August 2013. And Roberts reportedly just built a sprawling mansion in North Palm Beach, not far from Trump’s Mar-a-lago.

But his primary residence is in Philadelphia; Obama has been a regular presence at Comcast mansions there as well. In 2013, speaking at a Democratic Party fundraiser in the Philadelphia home of Roberts’ top lobbyist, President Obama commented: “I have been here so much, the only thing I haven’t done in this house is have Seder dinner.”

 While Russian oligarchs are often passionate game-hunters, Roberts is an avid golfer, carrying an impressive 8 handicap. Obama has famously golfed with him “on the lush fairways of the Vineyard Golf Club.”

Roberts: Ultimate boss at MSNBC

There’s one last factoid I need to add about Roberts. As Comcast’s CEO, he is the ultimate boss of those allegedly progressive hosts on MSNBC. Which may help to explain their silence about U.S. oligarchs, since it would be difficult to bring up the topic without mentioning their boss.

 I really shouldn’t single out Roberts. Nor the MSNBC hosts he employs. Because the problem goes way beyond this particular oligarch and that particular corporate news outlet.

Roberts is just one of dozens of powerful U.S. oligarchs. They compose a “U.S. ruling class” and preside over a “corporate state” – a couple more phrases one virtually never hears in mainstream U.S. media. One reason these oligarchs get little critical coverage and no systemic scrutiny is because – as in Russia – oligarchs are owners or major sponsors of mainstream media.

Let me be clear, so as to not overstate things: Fox News hosts are free to tarnish certain oligarchs, Democratic ones like George Soros – and MSNBC hosts gleefully go after Republican oligarchs like the Mercers and the Koch brothers. 

But to get a more accurate and complete view of the workings of the U.S. political system (aka “U.S. oligarchy”), I have a suggestion: Disconnect from MSNBC, CNN, Fox and other corporate news sources and turn instead to high-quality, independent progressive media. 

If you do, you’ll see that the problems plaguing U.S. democracy and the U.S. economy are definitely the work of oligarchs. But they don’t speak Russian.

 A version of this article originally appeared on Truthdig.com

Jeff Cohen is director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College. He co-founded the online activism group RootsAction.org in 2011 and founded the media watch group FAIR in 1986. He is the author of “Cable News Confidential: My Misadventures in Corporate Media.”


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45 comments for “Do U.S. Oligarchs Exist? Not in Mainstream Media

  1. April 16, 2018 at 4:29 am

    How is it that the best hoodlums on the planet are imperceptible to those they are pillaging? They like it that way, and they spend bounty mentally programming the gullible people.

    • Mild-ly - Facetious
      April 16, 2018 at 10:03 am

      Draining the data swamp: who owns the “virtual you”? —

      {or, meet and greet the new and improved 21ST century Oligarchs}

      By Pepe Escobar
      4/15/2018

      For all the raft of unanswered questions or dismissal as a nothingburger, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s two-day grilling at Capitol Hill hopefully may unleash a serious global debate about our virtual selves.

      US politicians, it seems, have discovered the merits of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The EU is actually at war with the GAFA galaxy (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon) and environs. The question for the US revolves around the immense legal twists and turns on how and what to regulate.

      As much as Zuckerberg may have conceded that the industry needs to be regulated, scores of congressmen pressed him on whether Facebook would enforce GDPR for US customers. He dodged the question multiple times, promising GDPR “controls,” but never “protection.”

      An army of savvy lawyers at the Facebook HQ certainly envisaged that regulation might “stifle competition,” as some congressmen did not fail to point out. And some, naively, even gave the whole game away, asking Zuckerberg directly what kind of regulation he would prefer.

      Capitol Hill may not have noticed that Facebook and GAFA as a whole work pretty much like political parties disguised as companies. The founders/CEOs are major shareholders. Decisions have the imprimatur of a board working as a sort of political bureau. Congress is the shareholder general assembly. And the militants are the salaried mass addicted to a visionary movement.

      The whole process runs in parallel with the decline of traditional political parties. Even top counseling comes from the political arena, like former Obama operative David Plouffe, who moved to Facebook from Uber, and Joel Benenson, Bill Clinton’s top polls specialist.

      And it’s certainly very much a political issue how cyberspace trumps actual physical space. GAFA is always looking for nations that offer comparative advantages and privileges to dodge regulation and annoying redistributive fiscal obligations.

      That betrays a clear ideological choice. GAFA is all about Ayn Rand-inspired Libertarianism; minimum government and maximum freedom. Surf away from the crashing waves of the state. Regulation is for losers.

      Ayn Rand happens to be the supreme idol of PayPal’s Peter Thiel, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey and Wikipedia co-creator Jimmy Wales.

      And then there’s philosophy great Martin Heidegger.

      Peter Thiel, Linkedin founder Reid Hoffman, Instagram inventor Mike Krieger — they all followed the Symbolic Systems program established in Stanford in 1986 combining neurosciences, logic, psychology, AI, cybernetics and, yes, philosophy, with an emphasis on Heidegger.

      Add to it the role of Pluralistic Networks, founded by Chilean Fernando Flores, a former minister of Salvador Allende and co-author, with Terry Winograd (Google’s Larry Page’s mentor) of a book about Heidegger’s influence on information science, redefining intelligence, language and the limits of biology. Here we have Heidegger as the precursor of AI.

      Liberal democracy vs freedom?

      One of the big shows in Brussels for years has been the debate on why GAFA refuses to pay taxes. Libertarianism is incompatible with direct tax deductions or regulations. What matters most of all is the philanthropic value of those entrepreneurs and their social importance in creating jobs.

      European egalitarian cynics, on the other hand, would describe them as a bunch of moguls bloated by un-measurable hubris praying to a doctrine of sovereign egotism.

      2 >> https://www.opednews.com/articles/Draining-the-data-swamp-w-by-Pepe-Escobar-Data-Theft-Personal_Facebook_Issues_Mark-Zuckerberg-180415-64.html

  2. jadan
    April 14, 2018 at 11:34 pm

    Thanks so much for this article, a theme oft thought but ne’er so well expressed. I will do my part to see that the phrase, “American oligarch with deep ties inside the beltway”, or equivalent, will become current throughout the blogosphere, and thereby help the public provide a new frame through which to view the elite minority.

  3. S. Black
    April 14, 2018 at 4:53 pm

    Many thanks for this piece, Mr. Cohen. Language structures how we see, conceptualize, and even experience the world — so word choice makes a huge difference. A major theme of Bernie Sanders’ campaign was the takeover of American democracy by an oligarchy — not by individual oligarchs, but by an oligarchic form of government, replacing government by the many with government by the wealthy, powerful few.

    The MSM is owned by gigantic oligarchic corporations, so of course they tell us only what they want us to know — and think. We’re not supposed to know about oligarchy; that’s why the astonishing news blackout on Bernie’s immensely popular campaign. It’s a lot of work locating reliable alternative sources of information; it was so much easier just to turn on the TV or radio and consume what came out. To make it even more difficult, the largest social media outlets are now oligarch-owned and doing everything they can to impede, censor, and silence alternative voices. That’s why people are finding alternatives to Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

    Consortium News has long been a trusted site for honest journalism and intelligent analysis, and this article exemplifies Robert Parry’s high journalistic standards.

  4. Laualie
    April 14, 2018 at 10:12 am

    I’ve recently found Consortium News and have thoroughly enjoyed reading past articles by Mr. Parry. I only wish I had found this resource years ago. While I appreciate the topics and coverage that CN continues to offer I am disappointed by the overtly snarky, sarcastic and emotive writing that permeates too many of the current contributors, including this piece.

  5. Robert Schwartz
    April 14, 2018 at 7:54 am

    Russia has its Oligarchs we are forever told, but here in America?

    The term we are confronted with, and here I’m taking it straight from the NY Times obituary of David Rockefeller, is “Philanthropist.”

  6. mike k
    April 13, 2018 at 7:52 pm

    Do they exist? The question is, do we exist? In their minds, only they exist, and we don’t – at least we are expendable. So somehow we have to make them feel that we exist. But to do that we have to feel that we exist, and have some value. Since we don’t seem to care if we are all annihilated in a nuclear war, I don’t think we put much stock in our own existence. Its kinda like, who cares? Maybe we don’t really exist. Who cares?

  7. Mild-ly - Facetious
    April 13, 2018 at 3:31 pm

    President Trump’s $4.4 trillion budget proposes deep cuts to education, healthcare and social safety net programs—while massively increasing the Pentagon’s budget.

    Trump’s plan would slash the Department of Education’s budget by more than 10 percent. It would sharply reduce income-based student loan repayment plans, while ending the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.

    Trump’s budget would cut more than $17 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—or SNAP—barring food stamp recipients from buying fresh fruit and vegetables, and instead providing only a boxed food delivery program. The budget would also phase out federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which supports public and community radio and TV stations. This comes as McClatchy reports the Trump administration is considering a plan that would not only impose work requirements for Medicaid enrollees, but which would also put a lifetime limit on adults’ access to Medicaid.

    Meanwhile, Trump’s budget would see a 13 percent rise in spending on weapons and war, bringing the Pentagon’s budget to $686 billion.

    Oligarchy Rules !!!

    Dark Money Wins Elections!!

    The “Supreme Court” Rules In Favor Of The Oligarchs.

    The Patronage/Paternalism of REPUBLICANS Predominate / rule,control the political spheres-of-influence.

    The True Republican thinker, Abraham Lincoln, was murdered by the self same oligarchical USA traders

    That conspired to assassinate President Kennedy and later, his brother and later the candidate that would’ve

    Prevented George W. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Oil Company Oligarchs from inventing a war in Iraq,

    The Kennedy that was killed/murdered in a highly dubious Plane Crash months before the Y2K presidential election.

    This is America ! Land of the ‘free’ and home of the expediently murdered party of the OPPOSITION ( to oligarchs ).

    • Mild-ly - Facetious
      April 13, 2018 at 5:40 pm

      Meanwhile, Political Trough Feeders and Trophy Hunters like Paul Ryan will ride-off-into-the-sunset with his Stock Market $$Millions gained from Koch Donations and Insider Trading sweetheart deals that padded his bankroll into where he can ‘ride-off-into-the sunset’ of the economical Atlas Shrugged libertarian existence of his dreams. …

      Hopefully, we’ll have a revisitation of Ryan’s “Atlas Shrugged” Utopian Individualism after Trump deports every ‘undesirable’ / shit hole person and farm worker/low wage laborer – street sweeper, stray dog collector, Little League Coach, humanitarian rehab worker for USA war vets, or advocates for the expanding numbers of homeless that operate shelters/feeding programs for Families — and/or those overwhelmed by fire storms or tornados or hurricanes and unforeseen catastrophic dreadful unforeseen plights that strike out of nowhere !!!!!!

      TRUMP GAVE A TAX CUT FOR THE RICH !

      Do you understand what that means in an American oligarchy that stands against Health Care For All?
      In an America that seeks to PRIVATIZE Education? — Is this not the prelude to education for the Privileged !! ?

      Can you not actualize / visualize the America of Paul Ryan’s AYN-RANDIAN satirical illusion? Where Dark Money Oligarchs like the Koch Brothers and Richard Mellon Scaithe and the Zuckerberg’s of this time Call The Shots and control the lives/livelihoods of We-The-People !!! ?

      Are we to bend the knee to those who control the economic survival of We-The-People?
      or have we not the resolve to take our balls in hand and declare Hell NO !!

      We rise to go to work each and every day – suffer freeway clogs going in and returning home – suffer Oil Company rises in Gasoline prices, as we struggle to pay mortgages or rent. — Meanwhile homelessness increases as rental fees skyrocket and families lose housing through Eviction. Entire communities turn into Ghost Towns of boarded buildings where polluted drinking water led to physical and mental sickness — this is america — Not the “landofhtefreeandhomeofthebrave” But the land of the oligarchs, who can and do empty cities via disenfranchisement — polluting water supplies — or defunding schools – increasing police and jails/prison occupants–

      Closing jobs by shipping factories overseas and evading corporate taxes — this is STRUCTURAL OLIGARCHY !

      Defund schools – build prisons – increase “law enforcement” – allow “inner-cities” to deteriorate via “Allowed Die Off” and the obliteration of community sustaining collectable taxes from a gainfully employed constituency.

      RONALD REAGAN destroyed all of that when he encouraged manufacturers and gave tax incentives to move factories offshore, to foreign countries where wages would be much much cheaper.

      Reagan is a SAINT to the Republican Party but he was and is a TRAITOR to the American Working People.

  8. mike k
    April 13, 2018 at 3:13 pm

    How is it that the greatest criminals in the world are invisible to those they are plundering? They like it that way, and they spend plenty brainwashing the sheeple.

  9. Piotr Berman
    April 13, 2018 at 3:11 pm

    One could write a book about assorted ways that make the West superior to no-good-niks like Russia, and the reasons why those ways do not apply to Russia when it seems that they do, and why those reasons do not apply to the West when they prove vileness.

    Western most influential rich people have some superior qualities compared with Russian ones. Detractors would call them plutocrats, but this is bad manners. The proper name is long, let us settle on MIRP. Given how our media operates (it is owned by MIRPs, after all), I could safely assume that this is the case, and just search — what are those superior qualities. Quick search suggest a simple and powerful answer: freedom! While the gentle West does not restrict its MIRPs who may thrive whether they please the governments or do not, I read that in Russia you cannot remain rich without abasement in front of Putin.

    Without resorting the old an inelegant word “plutocrat”, Western MiRPs are superior because they are actually influential.

    • mike k
      April 13, 2018 at 3:16 pm

      You can’t be serious. That is complete bullshit.

      • mike k
        April 13, 2018 at 3:19 pm

        I’m guessing that MIRP stands for malevolent ignorant rich people.

      • Piotr Berman
        April 13, 2018 at 3:38 pm

        I was not serious, but I truly read that the argument why Russian oligarchs are vile and the idea of confiscating their Western properties is a very good one, and it was roughly as I described. So I disagree with the second sentence.

  10. Mild-ly - Facetious
    April 13, 2018 at 2:49 pm

    Debt is a Product of Power Relations

    Socrates on Oligarchy and Democracy
    by Oleg Komlik

    The Republic is a monumental work of philosophy and political theory, written by Plato around 380 BC. In this sophisticated and fascinating tractate of ten books, Socrates – the pivotal character of The Republic – conducts his famous dialogues with Athenians, deliberating mainly on essence and aspects of justice. In Book VIII, Socrates discusses with Glaucon (Plato’s older brother) various regimes: Aristocracy, Timocracy, Oligarchy, Democracy, and Tyranny. Independently and without any assumed connection to the germane recent events in Europe and the US, these paragraphs on oligarchy and democracy resonate now as they did about 2,400 years ago.

    *****
    One, seeing another grow rich, seeks to rival him, and thus the great mass of the citizens become lovers of money.

    Likely enough.

    And so they grow richer and richer, and the more they think of making a fortune the less they think of virtue; for when riches and virtue are placed together in the scales of the balance, the one always rises as the other falls.

    True.

    And in proportion as riches and rich men are honoured in the State, virtue and the virtuous are dishonoured.

    Clearly.

    And what is honoured is cultivated, and that which has no honour is neglected.

    That is obvious.

    And so at last, instead of loving contention and glory, men become lovers of trade and money; they honour and look up to the rich man, and make a ruler of him, and dishonour the poor man.

    They do so.

    They next proceed to make a law which fixes a sum of money as the qualification of citizenship; the sum is higher in one place and lower in another, as the oligarchy is more or less exclusive; and they allow no one whose property falls below the amount fixed to have any share in the government. These changes in the constitution they effect by force of arms, if intimidation has not already done their work.

    Very true.

    And this, speaking generally, is the way in which oligarchy is established.

  11. Mild-ly - Facetious
    April 13, 2018 at 2:33 pm

    Socrates on Oligarchy and Democracy

    by Oleg Komlik
    July 6, 2015

    The Republic is a monumental work of philosophy and political theory, written by Plato around 380 BC. In this sophisticated and fascinating tractate of ten books, Socrates – the pivotal character of The Republic – conducts his famous dialogues with Athenians, deliberating mainly on essence and aspects of justice. In Book VIII, Socrates discusses with Glaucon (Plato’s older brother) various regimes: Aristocracy, Timocracy, Oligarchy, Democracy, and Tyranny. Independently and without any assumed connection to the germane recent events in Europe and the US, these paragraphs on oligarchy and democracy resonate now as they did about 2,400 years ago.

    *****
    One, seeing another grow rich, seeks to rival him, and thus the great mass of the citizens become lovers of money.

    Likely enough.

    And so they grow richer and richer, and the more they think of making a fortune the less they think of virtue; for when riches and virtue are placed together in the scales of the balance, the one always rises as the other falls.

    True.

    And in proportion as riches and rich men are honoured in the State, virtue and the virtuous are dishonoured.

    Clearly.

    And what is honoured is cultivated, and that which has no honour is neglected.

    That is obvious.

    And so at last, instead of loving contention and glory, men become lovers of trade and money; they honour and look up to the rich man, and make a ruler of him, and dishonour the poor man.

    They do so.

    They next proceed to make a law which fixes a sum of money as the qualification of citizenship; the sum is higher in one place and lower in another, as the oligarchy is more or less exclusive; and they allow no one whose property falls below the amount fixed to have any share in the government. These changes in the constitution they effect by force of arms, if intimidation has not already done their work.

    Very true.

    And this, speaking generally, is the way in which oligarchy is established.

    MORE — https://economicsociology.org/2015/07/06/socrates-on-oligarchy-and-democracy/

  12. Chim
    April 13, 2018 at 2:21 pm

    If Putin is the omnipotent dictator as is often suggested then rich Russians aren’t oligarchs, as they don’t have political clout.

  13. Mild-ly - Facetious
    April 13, 2018 at 2:07 pm

    If you’ve not seen this PBS series, which is only an overview, you’ll never understand or recognize the continuing influential power of The American Oligarchy. …

    The Men Who Built America (also known as The Innovators: The Men Who Built America in some international markets) is a six-hour, four-part miniseries docudrama which was originally broadcast on the History Channel in the Fall of 2012, and on the History Channel UK in Spring of 2013. The series focuses on the lives of Cornelius Vanderbilt, John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, J. P. Morgan, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. It tells how their industrial innovations and business empires revolutionized modern society.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Men_Who_Built_America

    • April 13, 2018 at 3:09 pm

      Except the series title is a lie.

      They didn’t build America.

      Workers built America and they just got rich by exploiting the workers.

  14. anastasia
    April 13, 2018 at 1:58 pm

    Funny that he wrote this column. I have recently been calling all these Tech company owners oligarchs. I forgot about the media oligarchs. But of course they are. There is no way that free people (the newscasters) could otherwise say that Assad used chemical weapons in April 2018 with a straight face.

  15. GMC
    April 13, 2018 at 1:47 pm

    There are sooo many oligarchs in the US that the Government doesn’t even know/ care if there are any citizens left in the country. They do whatever they want and with that Federal Reserve Gold mine – they will never run out of Gold/Paper. In fact if the citizens quit paying their taxes – the Federal Reserve would just start working 7 days a week 24 hrs. a day and government life would continue on. Khordakovsky {sp} was the best example of a Zionist backed Oligarch in Russia. Once you get past his smoothness – the guy was ripping off the Russian people and they know it. The US needs about 20 Putins in order to clean house.

  16. Rob
    April 13, 2018 at 1:31 pm

    Sometimes I wonder whether one of the big differences in governance between the U.S. and Russia is that in the U.S., the oligarchs control the government, while in Russia, Putin controls the oligarchs. I realize that such a frame is an oversimplification, but it may contain a measure of truth.

    • Brad Owen
      April 13, 2018 at 1:53 pm

      Exactly so. Putin is their “FDR” who, like FDR, although HE/FDR was from the class from which oligarchs arise, he saw that a New Deal HAD to be cut with the Proles or ALL would be lost (for his fellow oligarchs). Call it enlightened self-interest, its about the best, and most stable, Deal that the Proles can hope for, barring some genuine change in the ZeitGeist.

      • Typingperson
        April 15, 2018 at 3:34 pm

        This makes no sense. Putin grew up working class with a dad who was a disabled WWII vet.

        When he became president the big problem was the very powerful oligarchs who’d looted Russian national companies, with the assistance and complicity of USA. His aim was to get the oligarchs under control, not the proles. He did so by cutting a deal, saying Russia wouldn’t go after the oligarchs for looting Russian national assets if the oligarchs stayed out of politics.

        He’s the opposite of FDR in those senses. No idea what you’re on about.

  17. Tom Welsh
    April 13, 2018 at 1:09 pm

    Read Gustavus Myers’ “History of the Great American Fortunes”, whose second edition came out in the 1930s. You will see that there is no dirty, underhand trick that American plutocrats had not perfected by 1850.

  18. Tom Welsh
    April 13, 2018 at 1:05 pm

    “U.S. oligarchs have done far more to undermine U.S. democracy than any Russian”.

    Actually, as any decent history book will tell you, US plutocrats smothered US democracy at birth – or, strictly speaking, aborted it before it could be born. Thomas Jefferson was more or less the last American politician who seriously admired and tried to encourage democracy.

    • Whiteylockmandoubled
      April 13, 2018 at 6:46 pm

      And frankly, US oligarchs have done as much to strangle Russian democracy as any Russian oligarch. The US insisted on the creation of the current plutocratic system, foisted Yeltsin on the country through massive electoral intervention and watched as the subsequent austerity killed 9 million people prematurely. The Russian oligarchs exist in part because of the sociopathic exercise of power by the US oligarchy.

      (And it was bipartisan mass killing and looting, thank you very much)

      • Laualie
        April 14, 2018 at 12:08 pm

        Whitney – thank you for giving voice to this. The IMF (read U.S. mechanism for manipulating international economies) and elected U.S. leaders oversaw one of the bigger bipatisan failures and lost opportunities of recent history after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

  19. Tom Welsh
    April 13, 2018 at 1:02 pm

    “So an oligarch is not just a rich person but one who has influence or control over government, rather than directly ruling, as in a plutocracy”.

    Not quite. An oligarchy is a small group who rule between them; there is no implication that they are necessarily rich. A plutocracy is an oligarchy whose members are rich.

    • April 13, 2018 at 3:06 pm

      Thank you. There seems to be concerted effort to not use the proper term of Plutocrat, using the term Oligarch instead. As you point out an oligarchy just means the rule of a few. It could be an aristocracy where they rule because of their birth into the nobility, or a theocracy where they rule because they control the religion that controls the state, or a technocracy where they rule because they have risen to the top of the educated elite, or a junta where they rule because they are the generals who run the military and the military runs the states.

      But in a plutocracy they rule because they are the rich.

      There is no doubt that the rich rule us in the United States. They own the media, which operates as their propaganda arm. They own the politicians who do their bidding, as Gilens and Page’s study proved.

      • Realist
        April 13, 2018 at 3:20 pm

        Yes, they are plutocrats. Maybe that sounds too much like Democrats for the liking of some people. Actually, the American plutocrats (all rich oligarchs) practice equal opportunity chicanery when it comes to politics. Most rich folks I know (and believe me, I am entirely on the outside looking in!) contribute heavily to both the major parties to cover their bets.

      • Bart Hansen
        April 13, 2018 at 5:16 pm

        What about a word that might include kleptocrats, grifters and rent seekers?

    • Realist
      April 13, 2018 at 3:13 pm

      The Greek prefix “oligo-” simply means few (as in “oligonucleotides” or “oligosaccharides”), but those few oligarchs who de facto run the country are all rich. I’m pretty sure that being filthy rich is an absolute requirement for membership in the club.

    • backwardsevolution
      April 14, 2018 at 12:44 am

      Tom, Miranda and Realist – thank you for explaining the differences so well.

  20. Bob Van Noy
    April 13, 2018 at 12:56 pm

    Thank you Jeff Cohen. American Oligarchs are clearly a major part of our corruption and media corruption is probably even worse, because it is so very capable of influencing audiences by the thousands, and there is Marshall McLuhan’s Classic “The Medium Is the Message” written 1n 1967, where he accurately anticipated our dilemma. But I want to point out the outright political corruption of the media by LBJ as described in Phillip F. Nelson’s new book, “LBJ, The Mastermind Of the JFK Assassination,” where LBJ very masterfully manipulated his purchase and ownership of a Texas radio station so that he could directly influence his electorate. It doesn’t get more blatant than that and to my knowledge it has never been adequately explored in the MSM.

    I will link Marshall McLuhan because he’s worth contemporary attention. As always thank you CN for keeping the tradition.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marshall_McLuhan

  21. Clarke
    April 13, 2018 at 12:49 pm

    I still don’t see what Russia was supposed to have done to undermine U.S. Democracy. By giving voice to people like Chris Hedges and Lee Camp on RT they are aiding our democracy.

  22. Sally Snyder
    April 13, 2018 at 12:45 pm

    Here is an interesting look at the wealthiest members of the U.S. Congress and their net worth:

    http://viableopposition.blogspot.ca/2018/01/wealth-in-congress.html

    Americans are definitely living in a post-democratic oligarchy.

  23. mike k
    April 13, 2018 at 12:33 pm

    How anyone could be dense enough not to know that rich and powerful persons control this country is a testament to our totally flawed educational system. We have raised a nation of know nothings.

    • April 13, 2018 at 2:57 pm

      Mike,
      Your condescending bashing of your fellow citizens is getting tiresome!
      Are you including yourself in this subset of know nothings?
      These types of comments, repeated ad nausea degrade this site.
      And are not helpful or informative.
      Respectfully
      Dennis

  24. Brad Owen
    April 13, 2018 at 12:11 pm

    It’s the same old Proles vs. Oligarchs conflict we’ve had since the days of serfs and peasants and “Nobles” who were granted deeds to Lordly Feudal Estates by some Crown or another. Ironically, the creation of Nation-States and constitutions and governments of, by, and for those serfs and peasants was supposed to be the solution. This also has been tried since the People of Rome threw off their Etruscan Kings and formed The Republic of Rome, S.P.Q.R.,but it eventually gave way to their own oligarchs and the Roman Empire was born. And so it has been for Western Civilization: The Republic VS. The Empire (same basis for the Star Wars Saga). The beat goes on…until there is a change in the ZeitGeist, and people no longer think in these terms, and THAT change in the hearts & minds of people is a truly mysterious process. Such change is now only preserved in Legend and Lore of distant times lost in mist, times when “the gods lived with and dwelt among men”, and similar such tales now beyond proof or evidence. Such a “shock and awe” to the human psyche is now needed to shake us from this repetition of the same “Republic vs Empire” scenario, and it is largely out of the hands of people to effect such radical change-of-heart. About the only tools left (of which I know) are prayer and faith. How DOES one make the Lion lie down with the Lamb (or the sheeple)?

  25. Joe Tedesky
    April 13, 2018 at 12:05 pm

    Over 25 years ago I was hosted by a wealthy fund raiser. This gentleman had photos of himself with every president starting with Gerald Ford on up. At the time he was fund raising for both Poppy Bush and Clinton. When I told him of how I like Perot, he whispered to me, ‘so do I’. So even the fund raisers vote against their own interest, or likes in the case of this fund raiser, I once knew.

    Our government is run by the people with the most money. I think Sheldon Wolin had it right, that we Americans are living in an ‘inverted fascist state’, and that’s that. There is so much needed fixed, that I can’t see any reform taking place without a complete crash of our current system.

    • jose
      April 13, 2018 at 7:33 pm

      Dear Joe: According to author Laurence Britt, if any given nation presents the following traits mentioned below, then we have fascism. 1. Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism. From the prominent displays of flags and bunting to the ubiquitous lapel pins, the fervor to show patriotic nationalism, Catchy slogans, pride in the military, etc. 2. Disdain for the importance of human rights. 3. Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause as a means to divert the people’s attention from other problems, to shift blame for failures 4. The supremacy of the military/avid militarism. A disproportionate share of national resources was allocated to the military, even when domestic needs were acute. 5. Rampant sexism. 6. A controlled mass media. 7. Obsession with national security. Inevitably, a national security apparatus was under direct control of the ruling elite. It was usually an instrument of oppression, operating in secret and beyond any constraints. Its actions were justified under the rubric of protecting “national security,” and questioning its activities was portrayed as unpatriotic or even treasonous. 8. Religion and ruling elite tied together. 9. Power of corporations protected. 10. Power of labor suppressed or eliminated. Since organized labor was seen as the one power center that could challenge the political hegemony of the ruling elite and its corporate allies, it was inevitably crushed or made powerless. The poor formed an underclass, viewed with suspicion or outright contempt. Being poor was considered akin to a vice. 11. Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts.12. Obsession with crime and punishment. Most of these regimes maintained Draconian systems of criminal justice with huge prison populations. The police were often glorified and had almost unchecked power, leading to rampant abuse.13. Rampant cronyism and corruption. 14. Fraudulent elections.
      Joe, if any of these characteristics are present here in America, Guess what?

      • Joe Tedesky
        April 13, 2018 at 11:39 pm

        Great comment Jose, and you made your point. Way to go. I enjoyed what you wrote. Joe

      • S. Black
        April 14, 2018 at 3:54 pm

        Great list, jose — with the possible exception of nationalism as a defining characteristic. Following the growth and spread of transnational corporate power since the1990s, globalism has been superseding nationalism. The power and influence of sovereign states — and the democracies they generally represent — are being replaced by a multinational corporate elite which is taking control of national governments as well as the world’s resources. It already owns most of the world’s wealth. Much of this is accomplished via corporate lobbyists pushing “free trade” agreements like GATT, NAFTA, CAFTA, etc., the cancellation of antitrust regulations, and the invasion of weaker countries possessing coveted natural oil and mineral resources.

        Rather than the authoritarianism of nationalistic fascism, globalist authoritarianism is better characterized through something like Sheldon Wolin’s notion of “inverted totalitarianism.” The populist style of nationalism that has recently arisen with “exit” movements (e.g.,Brexit) and, for a while (as some had hoped), with the election of nationalist Trump over globalist Clinton, can be seen as a resistance to globalism, an attempt to take control and power back to the local level — for the people.

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