As long as a small elite group are able to manipulate the way people think and vote, then you don’t have democracy, writes Caitlin Johnstone.
By Caitlin Johnstone
Back in November Mike Bloomberg was polling at 4 percent nationally and had the highest disapproval rating of any potential Democratic presidential candidate, and understandably so; the man has a uniquely horrible record and no redeeming traits to speak of.
Now, after spending $400 million in broadcast, radio and cable ads, $42 million on Facebook ads, $36 million on Google ads, and an unknown fortune on other shady manipulations, a national Quinnipiac poll released last week put him at 15 percent nationally in the Democratic primary. This week national polls released by NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist and Zogby put him at 19 and 20 percent, respectively.
You can argue against the validity of polls all you like, and surely none of them are pristine representations of public opinion. But there’s no denying that these numbers have gone way up, and there’s no denying that now, approvingly or not, everyone’s talking about Michael Bloomberg.
Late night talk show hosts are doing bits about the prevalence of Bloomberg ads. People are making satirical videos spoofing them. I’ve seen parents complaining that their kids recite lines from his ads at the dinner table. It’s a story in itself. It’s saturating social consciousness. It’s very much a thing.
? MICHAEL BLOOMBERG BUYS ADS INSIDE HIS OWN ADS ?
(from @TheUNDERCULTURE) pic.twitter.com/H1dy5KxNz0
— James Adomian (@JAdomian) February 17, 2020
“Nothing remotely like what Mike Bloomberg is doing has ever been seen in US politics – nothing in the same universe,” journalist Glenn Greenwald recently tweeted. “And the threat and danger it (and he) poses to US democracy is equally without comparison.”
Greenwald is of course correct. But while Bloomberg is doing something that is without precedent, his campaign is also highlighting problems with the system which have existed for ages. And in my opinion, it would be an unfortunate waste if his campaign came and went without these problems getting more attention than they currently are.
Mike Bloomberg is not the first plutocrat to use his wealth to manipulate a U.S. election, and he is not the first plutocrat to use his wealth to manipulate public perception. He’s just the first to do it so brazenly and ham-fistedly. The fact that it is both possible and easy for a billionaire to throw a vast fortune at an electoral race and drastically influence its direction tells us everything we need to know about the illusory nature of U.S. democracy. And now it’s right out in the open.
As long as a small elite group are able to manipulate the way people think and vote, then you don’t have democracy, you have oligarchy. If that small elite group happens to be much wealthier than everyone else, then it’s a specific kind of oligarchy known as plutocracy. You can watch this video and this video for some general information on the ways U.S. plutocrats exert control over the political system, and you can read this fascinating thread here for more specific information on how Bloomberg has been stifling opposition and manipulating endorsements out of political figures using his unparalleled spending power.
This has been happening all the time, for generations, and not just with U.S. elections but with Americans’ perception of what’s going on in their world as well. Whether it’s running ads, buying up media outlets, funding think tanks or incentivizing politicians to regurgitate the desired lines, billionaires are constantly using their wealth to shore up narrative control, because they understand that whoever controls the narrative controls the world.
Bloomberg built a media empire. Jeff Bezos bought The Washington Post. Most of America’s news media are owned or controlled by billionaires. Even that “philanthropy” which mass media pundits keep crowing about in the same breath as Bloomberg’s name is actually just another billionaire narrative control apparatus, allowing them to donate a tiny tax-deductible portion of their income in exchange for political influence, and buying them the ability to wear the fancy label of “philanthropist” instead of “sociopathic parasite.”
Billionaires pour vast fortunes into think tanks, which are generally institutions where academics are paid to come up with the most intelligent-sounding arguments possible explaining why it would be good and smart to do something evil and stupid, whether that be the destruction of the ecosystem, regime change in Iran, or further corporate/financial deregulation. They then circulate those arguments at key points of influence.
For a Bloomberg-specific example of think tank narrative control, take the time his donations to the Center for American Progress (CAP) leveraged that think tank into removing a chapter from a 2015 report detailing his Orwellian surveillance program targeting Muslims back when he was the mayor of New York City. Back in 2013 The Nation‘s Ken Silverstein reported that CAP staffers “were very clearly instructed to check with the think tank’s development team before writing anything that might upset contributors.” Sure enough, a former CAP staffer named Yasmine Taeb recently detailed for Democracy Now how “the chapter was flagged by a member of the executive committee who actually previously had worked for Mayor Bloomberg” and “said that there would be a strong reaction by Bloomberg World if this report was released as it was.” At that point Bloomberg had given CAP nearly $1.5 million.
The billionaire class has to buy up narrative control because there is nothing about plutocracy that is sane or healthy; people would never knowingly consent to it unless they were manipulated into doing so. Because power is relative, and because money is power in a plutocracy, plutocrats are naturally incentivized to maintain a system where everyone else is kept as poor as possible so that they can have as much relative power as possible. A glance at what the Sanders campaign has been able to accomplish just with small-dollar donations and grassroots support gives you some insight into why these plutocrats want people working long, exhausting hours with as little spare income as possible.
Nobody would ever knowingly consent to being kept poor and busy just so some billionaires can live as modern-day kings, so they need to be propagandized into it via narrative manipulation. If you’ve ever wondered why it seems like the news man is always lying to you, that’s why.
Whenever I write about the power of plutocratic propaganda, I always get people saying I’m just a conspiracy theorist (and that I have an awful addiction to alliteration). They argue that sure, it’s possible to influence public opinion a bit, but people are free agents and they make up their own minds based on any number of potential factors, so it’s silly to focus on media manipulation as the underlying cause of all the world’s ills.
Oh yeah? If people can’t be manipulated by the wealthy into supporting agendas which don’t benefit them, how come a billionaire presidential candidate was able to quadruple or quintuple his polling numbers in three months just by throwing money at them?
And that’s just one agenda of just one billionaire. There are 607 billionaires in the United States. And none of them are interested in giving up their plutocratic throne.
"They had to send me a couple pieces of evidence and to ask me, almost to beg me, to look at it and when I did
I started to see that really the public narrative that we know about Assange has been fabricated. It's not true. The evidence is contradictory" @NilsMelzer#FreeAssange pic.twitter.com/ic2Kqte41p
— Assange Edits ? (@AssangeEdits) February 10, 2020
The unpleasant fact of the matter is that the human mind is far more hackable than people like to believe it is. Just listen to UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer describe how he’d been completely taken in by the horrible mass media smear campaign against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange prior to taking his case. This is an educated, intelligent and highly compassionate man who, simply because he’d relied on the plutocratic media to help him figure out what’s going on in the world, had an understanding that Assange was a wicked man who was guilty of wicked deeds. It wasn’t until he took the case and began personally investigating the actual facts of the matter without the filter of the plutocratic media spinmeisters that he was able penetrate beneath the layers of narrative distortion to get at the reality of the situation.
Some clever people figured out a long time ago that humans live in two worlds: the real world and the narrative world. The narrative world consists of the mental chatter which occupies the majority of most people’s moment-to-moment interest and attention. The real world is everything else: life as it is, without the stories about what life is.
The clever people figured out that you can get folks to give you real things in the real world, just by giving them narratives in the narrative world. Use your control over your society’s dominant narratives and you can get people to hand you real wealth and power in exchange for a bunch of made-up stories of fear and inadequacy and factionalism and otherness. Manipulative men can get real-life sexual favors in exchange for narratives about love and romance. Manipulative priests can get your real-life tithes in exchange for narratives about imaginary deities. Manipulative politicians can get your real-life votes in exchange for narratives about imaginary terrorists. Manipulative billionaires can use the rewards of your real-life labor in exchange for units of an imaginary financial system which exists solely as a narrative construct. They figured out a way to get everything for nothing.
Nothing remotely like what Mike Bloomberg is doing has ever been seen in US politics – nothing in the same universe. And the threat and danger it (and he) poses to US democracy is equally without comparison.
It’s a menace beyond what words can describe: https://t.co/tmFzlpBKzr
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) February 18, 2020
Humans are not difficult to manipulate. I am not difficult to manipulate. You are not difficult to manipulate. If you don’t appreciate this fact, you make yourself even easier to manipulate. It’s not difficult to mock the people who’ve been manipulated into supporting Bloomberg. What is difficult is coming to terms with the fact that you yourself, and indeed your entire species, have many glitches in your cognitive processes which can be, have been, and will continue to be exploited by adept manipulators.
All we can do is make this conscious. Like everything else in this struggle, the solution to the mind’s intrinsic hackability is bringing the light of consciousness to it. Manipulators cannot operate in an environment with too much awareness of their tricks.
Mike Bloomberg is a terrible human being. But at the very least he may operate as a catalyst for this consciousness.
Caitlin Johnstone is a rogue journalist, poet, and utopia prepper who publishes regularly at Medium. Follow her work on Facebook, Twitter, or her website. She has a podcast and a book, “Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers.”
This article was re-published with permission.
The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.
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Billionaire Bloomberg’s billions lets him control the narrative and other things. Just check out how much money he is spending. One can find lots of info at The Guardian and Who What Why about his efforts on gun control and local democratic elections in Texas. Any democratic candidate Bernie gets into office in Texas will never vote with Bernie on anything and Mike knows it.
So Mike, no fool, has a method to his apparent madness.
The only difference between him and trump are the size of their fortunes and IQs. Both have changed their part affiliations for instance. No doubt the “non-thinker” Trump is making all billionaires look bad as they stand silent on the subject of Trumps transgressions, Bloomberg the “thinking” billionaire, sees opportunity so he got into the race to wreak havoc on the democrats, Bernie especially.
Remember both of these clown have switched their party affiliations in the past, the voters be damned.
Thanks CN and thank you Caitlin !
So, you don’t like being manipulated and zombified? Instead of agonizing and complaining, just stop watching television.
Do you think TV is the only medium by which corporations and oligarchs manipulate public discourse and our own thinking? Social media, commercial and public radio (including the BBC), movies, advertising… How do you avoid them all?
The best “democracy” money can buy…By today’s standards, even “democracy” is fake.
The sellout of the establishment within the DNC is too obvious for many democrat voters. Anybody having seen the debate will agree that Bloomberg’s presence is pushing voters toward Sanders. He is now a clear frontrunner and only foul play can bar him from becoming the presidential candidate.
Imagine he would announce AOC as his running mate……
I think the DNC establishment will at that point prefer 4 more years of Trumpism rather then having ‘socialists’ in the WH.
They can always blame the Russians anyways….
Just another thought: so Bloomberg gets 15% of the democratic votes with 400 min of overt meddling. The Russians won the election with 100.000 USD of covert meddling…
Sounds logical ?
Caitlin, I get the distinct impression that you don’t even believe in Santa Claus. Am I wrong?
I appreciate what Caitlin Johnstone tries to do with her articles but to talk about democracy and the US political system is simply a contradiction in terms. This american political system has long since been anything but a democracy and the decay and rot gets worse every single day, month, and year.
It will take a revolution to get the rot out of government, out of the political system but is absolutely not going to happen. A start would be to trash the two political parties but that also will not happen, altho the demos are trying very hard to make themselves irrelevant. The GOPers are still riding but that will not last much longer.
Caitlin Johnstone is telling us how to make another sort of revolution: each one of us will become conscious about how much we are manipulated and that our mind can be hacked.
This small elite cannot go on like this forever. The more evil these plutocrats become the more people will realize what is going on. It is starting all over the world now. Truth is an immense power and Julian Assange has played a big part in this change. He has helped us to become conscious.
Nils Melzer has become conscious about how he has been manipulated and changed his mind. And so can we. Many people who had a bad opinion about Julian Assange have now changed their mind.
“All we can do is make this conscious. Like everything else in this struggle, the solution to the mind’s intrinsic hackability is bringing the light of consciousness to it. Manipulators cannot operate in an environment with too much awareness of their trick”.
Great article Caitlin. Thanks.
Interesting article Caitlin. It all begs the question of whether Bernie Sanders is manipulating people by promising them all kinds of free stuff? I’m not trying to be flippant, because in the end, convincing anyone to do something is always about what’s in it for them. In Bernie’s case, he’s stayed true to his beliefs, he’s just never been able to enact any of them. I’m still trying to understand if he somehow wins, suddenly the house and senate are going to flip and all become “democratic socialists?”
As far as Bloomberg, far from perfect, but a good many of his policies mirror my own. That and the idea of him taking out trump are way more important to me than a pragmatic or dogmatic argument over how we make the world a more just place. I spent 25 years inside organized labor and listened to some really good politicians make promises they had absolutely no ability to achieve.
“…As far as Bloomberg, far from perfect, but a good many of his policies mirror my own. That and the idea of him taking out trump are way more important to me than a pragmatic or dogmatic argument over how we make the world a more just place.”
Instead of trying to understand what Caitlin is saying , just accept the fact that you and Caitlin must agree to disagree , now and forever , because whether you understand her or not , you’re never going to be swayed by her arguments about justice. Obviously.
So what you’re saying is that the best available strategy is to replace Trump with his evil twin. Win win*
Sanders is well aware of his limitations as a President. That’s why he’s built a wide, deep movement and made it about all of you, not just him. How that movement progresses is your job as the people (I’m British).
Frankly the debates usually turn me off; I don’t care what they say just what they have done; though I like to see Bernie parry all the bullshit that is thrown at him. Also my tolerance for being lied to gets exhausted part way through.
I wanted to see last night’s as I expected Bloombug would get trashed. I was not disappointed.
He has a big problem; his history is indefensible: stop and frisk; reducing social security; stating that most crime being in neighborhoods of color-not. Try Wall Street as a major crime scene instead. Talk about foot in mouth disease. He way outclasses Biden in that ailment.
And then there is women. Elizabeth Warren’s ripping his cloak off with, “A billionaire who calls women ‘fat broads’ and ‘horse-faced lesbians.’ And no, I’m not talking about Donald Trump” was totally priceless. Her whole take down was devastating.
Some commentator opined it might have been a mistake on his part to take part as he is not on that ballot. This was true. I expect and hope the more he opens his mouth in a venue where he is challenged the more his rising polls will wither and his money will go down the drain.
Caitlin discusses philanthropy. I’d like to add that reading Andrew Carnegie’s “Gospel of Wealth” is very inciteful as that great robber baron overtly states that those of wealth have an obligation to use the surplus value of their workers for good as the workers aren’t bright enough to make good use of it. So when Mr. ex mayor brags about giving his fortune away, think of that maybe being in the back of his narcissistic excessively financially endowed mind.
If Americans really do not wish to be manipulated by those with enormous sums of money to spend on political advertising, then it would seem that no tax rate cuts should be provided the wealth, and, in fact, they should be raised to what they were during the Eisenhower Administration, and the amount of money that can be poured into mass advertising should be dramatically curtailed. Moreover, the election cycle should be shortened to no more than three months and candidates should be required to hold town halls with constituents. Lastly, the political lobbying racket must end, if elections are to serve any purpose at all in the enacting of future legislation. The current out-of-control election system is antithetical to the promise of true democracy.
The canard about taxes during the Eisenhower era is misleading. Yes, they had marginal tax rates up to 90% …. but nobody paid them. There were so many exceptions and loopholes and tax shelters available that anyone with the means to hire a tax attorney or financial planner could easily avoid those rates, and everyone in that 90% tax bracket had the means. There was a whole cottage industry built around those elaborate tax avoidance schemes that was decimated by the Reagan-era tax cuts, which chopped the marginal rates while at the same time closing a myriad of loopholes. The net result was that there was not much change in what the wealthy actually paid in taxes between the Eisenhower era and the Reagan era.
Keep that in mind when proposing massive hikes to marginal tax rates for the wealthy. Capital moves much more freely today than it did during the 1950s. If you raise rates high enough to really hurt the obscenely rich, they’re just going to move their capital elsewhere. They might even move themselves elsewhere if you really stick it to them. Then you are stuck with the situation New York and California find themselves in, with wealthy residents fleeing to more tax-friendly locales (like Florida) and leaving giant holes in the tax base of the states they left behind.
If you REALLY want to know how the American establishment uniparty feels about taxes on the wealthy, check out how the Democrats proposed legislation to repeal Trump’s tax cuts would also repeal his SALT deduction cap. That deduction cap only hits the wealthiest decile of tax payers. Why are the ‘tax the rich’ democrats looking to repeal it? Because their donor class is hopping mad about it, that’s why. It’s not the minuscule 2% drop in the highest marginal tax rate that bothers them. It’s that their donors can no longer deduct an unlimited amount of state/local property and income taxes from their federal taxes.
It’s not like they are looking to repeal Trump’s doubling of the standard deduction (which affects the bottom two-thirds of taxpayers who don’t itemize), or the increase in the child tax credit. They’re keeping most of the good stuff from Trump’s tax cuts. But they are quietly trying to kill the SALT cap while they are repealing the more repugnant parts of the legislation as boon for their wealthy donors. They speak with a forked tongue.
Hopefully his entry into the presidential race, using his money and connections to do so, will make our existing plutocracy more apparent to Americans who at this point remain ignorant of what we are as a nation, a democracy in lies only. I don’t give him a chance in hell of winning the democratic nomination and if the democratic party and its base who tout their sense of greater equality for all endorses him they will flagrantly show their own hypocrisy. He certainly is not someone who can take on Trump.
Caitlin, with “plutocratic propaganda,” people say you have an awful addition to alliteration. Are you guilty as charged? If so: I too am an addict and haven’t even the decency to feel guilty about it. If you are one of us insufferable sufferers, I propose we launch an association of addicts, the ALLITERATION ALLIANCE!
p.s. Kidding aside, thanks very much for your outstanding work — standing up to, uh, plutocratic propaganda!
Please look up the definition of Oligarchy. One can never refer to the US system of government as “democracy “ or “representative republic”, or even “plutocracy”.
When the DNC excludes candidates with followers, yet allows Bloomberg into a debate (and the race), there is no democracy, and with McConnell and Pelosi in office, there is no representation. Trumps cabinet of leftover neocons and Pentagon full of warmongers provides us with a Spaceforce to rule the galaxy.
Saints preserve us.
So obvious .US democracy is a sellout . Don’t give your vote away . Boycott this election $
Amen Caitlin. Excellent Scribbling .
From one of your favorite followers that dosent believe in the Tooth fairy.
If last night’s debate has anything to do with it, Mike might as well go home. He is not in the same class of politicians he was debating and is not going to catch-up within just a few months of campaigning under his belt.
What Americans need to watch, and fear, is the rigging of elections by the DNC. They STILL DON’T GET IT !!!
Caitlin, I am an Ausie and I sense you are the Ausie missing at home in Australia. We need you. For Christ’s sake this country is going in the same direction as the US
“…you are the Ausie missing at home in Australia. We need you. For Christ’s sake this country is going in the same direction as the US”
Poodles on a leash follow their master. Australia , Canada , the UK , etc. – all poodles. Caitlin recognizes that if we can’t change the ways of the master , all the poodles are screwed , regardless.
“… whoever controls the narrative controls the world.”
It’s the same story of big media cooperating and pushing the financial class world wide. Brazil, Venezuela, France, Chile, Bolivia, Israel, US, it’s the same world-wide. Representative democracy is a tool of capitalism and it is controlled by media corporations serving the owners.
“Some clever people figured out a long time ago that humans live in two worlds: the real world and the narrative world.”
Humans are social animals similar to a herd, a flock and a pack. That’s biology and we are what we are.
Billionaires are stricken with the mental disorder of insatiable want and cannot stop their sociopathic destruction of Earth. Can we accept who we are and change the story from extinction to cooperation? We will die quite soon if we don’t control sociopaths wearing fancy clothes seeking power to milk us dry. Consider a constituent assembly, it’s worth a try.