Wednesday, February 01, 2017

The Shock Doctrine Comes Home to Roost

For the past 25 years, at least, Americans have sat by and watched as country after country were invaded, subverted and generally fucked with by the Globalist oligarchy, all in the name of the Neoliberal world order. 

The death toll has been astounding (born-again humanist Madeline Albright once chirped dizzily that a half-million dead Iraqi children were "worth it") and the financial costs uncountable, but it's been a bonanza for the super-rich, who've grown even richer from the endless shock and awe the rest of the world has sustained. 

Canadian political theorist Naomi Klein has given a name to this program, "the Shock Doctrine." It's a program of radical change through constant destabilization and trauma. And it has an origin that will resonate with readers of this blog.

Klein traces the Shock Doctrine's roots to MK ULTRA, specifically the Mengele-like work of celebrated psychiatrist Ewan Cameron and his extreme efforts to reprogram the human brain in CIA-funded trials in Montreal: 

The Shock Doctrine vividly shows how disaster capitalism – the rapid-fire corporate reengineering of societies still reeling from shock – did not begin with September 11, 2001. The book traces its origins back fifty years, to the University of Chicago under Milton Friedman, which produced many of the leading neo-conservative and neo-liberal thinkers whose influence is still profound in Washington today. 
New, surprising connections are drawn between economic policy, “shock and awe” warfare and covert CIA-funded experiments in electroshock and sensory deprivation in the 1950s, research that helped write the torture manuals used today in Guantanamo Bay
Shortly after Donald Trump's inauguration, Klein picked up the thread again in a piece for The Intercept and predicted that his presidency would follow the Shock Doctrine pattern:
This is the disaster capitalism blueprint, and it aligns with Trump’s own track record as a businessman all too well. 
Trump and Pence come to power at a time when these kinds of disasters, like the lethal tornadoes that just struck the southeastern United States, are coming fast and furious. Trump has already declared the U.S. a rolling disaster zone. And the shocks will keep getting bigger, thanks to the reckless policies that have already been promised. 
What Katrina tells us is that this administration will attempt to exploit each disaster for maximum gain. We’d better get ready.
And now the mainstream media is finally getting the hint that Trump is doing domestically- and more specifically on their political opponents (which includes the mainstream media, of course) what both Bushes, Clinton and Obama did with such extreme enthusiasm internationally. 

This went up on NBC News today:

President Donald Trump has blasted out controversial executive orders so quickly, it's been difficult for many to keep up. And some experts say that may be the point. 
All presidents work quickly to launch their agendas as they take office. But rarely has one made so many scattershot pronouncements all at once. 
"This is definitely bizarre, rapid-fire presidential policy making," says presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, a professor of history at Rice University. "It really is a 'shock and awe' strategy that every day there's a new, radical initiative, and it doesn't give journalists or the public a chance to get a grip on what just happened." 
The sheer volume of changes makes last week's stories surrounding arguments about crowd size or Stephen Bannon's "shut up" to the media — let alone news about Russian hacking or unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud — seem old before they're even published, experts on political communication say. 
"It's like firing tons of missiles into the air so that your adversary can't figure out which missile is real and which isn't," says Anthony Pratkanis, a professor of psychology at the University of California Santa Cruz and the author of "Age of Propaganda: The Everyday Use and Abuse of Persuasion." 
"You don't know which missiles to hit. Is that a decoy, or is that for real? And that allows things that you might not be aware of to sneak through." 
The military strategy promotes the use of overwhelming speed and disinformation, among other things, to paralyze the opposition
So there's a method to the apparent madness. I don't think that will comfort a lot of people- certainly not his countless enemies-  but there you go.

But I've been thinking an awful lot about Spengler lately. No, not the neoconservative former LaRouche lieutenant but the German political theorist who predicted a period of "Caesarism" as empires enter a crisis point. The thing is that most people don't realize we have reached a crisis point.

But the signs are all there, if you know where to look. A story hit the news that essentially confirmed a suspicion I've been voicing over the past several weeks- that the new Cold War won't be with Russia but with China.

I'm no prophet. Prediction is a tough racket, given the random variables constantly swirling around, banging into one another like protons in an atom smasher. But I can say this- the powers that be played the Global game and there was one clear, unambiguous winner: Communist China.  
It's why China seems to be the odd man out at Davos this year, Monopoly board under its arm, forlornly trying to get an increasingly-reluctant world to play along again. 
And after a number of years-absence, China's horrific smog problems are headline news again.  
I believe there is a new Cold War coming. But collating all the stories and taking the measure of the Trump junta, I don't believe it will necessarily be with Russia.
And sure enough, this story leaked to the wire services for some mysterious reason, also today:
Steve Bannon, the assistant and chief strategist to President Donald Trump believes the U.S. will be at war with China within the next few years. 
Speaking on his radio show in March 2016, Bannon predicted relations between the U.S. and China would ultimately escalate to conflict over the next decade.
All of which got me to thinking, thinking thoughts that are no doubt heretical in many quarters these days. 

Start with this: what if Trump is being used as a vehicle for changes that the power structure already intended to make but couldn't feasibly do without upsetting a number of powerful constituencies? 

What if they (whoever "they" are, exactly) selected this walking, talking, shocking machine to usher in an entirely new paradigm for the economy, for the military, for geopolitics, for domestic politics? 

What if, like the Brexit voters- who I have no doubt are being scapegoated for a decision made at the absolute highest levels of power- the runaway Trump train will act as a release-valve and scapegoat for the inevitable bumps and bruises that are bound to pop up along the way?

What if, like Brexit, a decision has been made to disengage from a Global system that is no longer useful to either the powers-that-be or, more accurately,  to the newly-ascendant powers behind the Trump Junta?

After all, the power of companies like GM, ExxonMobil and Apple is ultimately contingent on the power of the country they are based in. Without the implicit punitive power of the US military, even the most powerful corporation is subject to the predations of corporate espionage, copyright and trademark infringement and plain, old-fashioned piracy (the "argh-matey" kind).

Read this, based on a CBS News 60 Minutes report:

Economic espionage sponsored by the Chinese government is costing U.S. corporations hundreds of billions of dollars and more than two million jobs

If spying is the world's second oldest profession, the government of China has given it a new, modern-day twist, enlisting an army of spies not to steal military secrets but the trade secrets and intellectual property of American companies. It's being called "the great brain robbery of America."
So maybe it's not just about a bunch of little islands after all.

You not only have major problems the hard power of the uniformed military but also the murkier power of the intelligence agencies and their surrogates.

The unalloyed beating US-backed rebels took in Syria seems to have been a wake-up call for a lot of people in the Deep State, as well as the alienation of crucial allies such as Turkey (who unambiguously blame the US for the coup attempt last summer) and the Philippines (whose President called Obama the "son of a whore").

There are also the unraveling of the NATO alliance and the moves by Putin to lure new countries into his orbit. In other words, the battle for the Earth Island is most definitely heating up.


When he's not throwing ideological bombs, Trump has been banging the drum for an America First economy, for manufacturing to return to these shores, for American workers to be put back to work.

Is this new onshoring movement coming out of some altruistic impulse on the part of the economic overclass? I don't think so. I think they've been looking at what's been going on in the world and feeling an awful lot like the Byzantine Empire. 

Powerful, sure. Rich, yes. Opulent, you bet. But the real fact of the matter is that their long-assumed dominance is under terminal pressure. From foreign competition, from demographic pressures, from military insecurity. 

Of course, with robotics, AI, 3D printing and the like there's no longer a need for cheap foreign labor to keep costs down. Eventually, maybe all that labor can be redirected into more military-oriented work.  And any problems with labor relations will be a breeze, seeing that the Left has now opted out entirely from representing the interests of labor.

And just as the Byzantines always saw themselves as Romans first and foremost, we're seeing this subtle projection of Roman symbolism along with this ostensible program to bring the economy back home after a twenty-five year Globalist experiment that only strengthened their adversaries.

Just as the Byzantines kept the plebes happy with massive public works projects, the Trump Administration is promising to invest a trillion dollars into our crumbling infrastructure. 

I guess bread and circuses are no longer enough.

I don't know if Trump is our Caesar but I'm sure he'd like to be. And I'm sure a lot of his advisers would too. The parallels are certainly there and as you saw here first, the symbolism seems to go back quite a while, strangely enough. But Trump lacks Caesar's military discipline and tactical genius, even if he shares his ruthlessness.

But a lot of people are afraid Trump represents a fundamental threat to American democracy, a change in the way decisions are made. I think they have a right to be, though they certainly should have spoken up a lot sooner. The Imperial Presidency has been in the works for a long time now and picked up considerable speed these last eight years.

I'm not ready to declare Trump the new Hitler but I can say for certain that the same tactics America has unleashed with fury and abandon on the rest of the world- and no one did so with more gusto and aplomb than Barack Obama- most certainly seem to have come home to roost.