This week Eric sits down with author Nicholas Schou to discuss his new book Spooked: How the CIA Manipulates the Media and Hoodwinks Hollywood. Eric and Nick explore the history of CIA manipulation of the media going back decades, and how it has evolved into the propaganda consensus we see today. The conversation touches on everything from Nicaragua and the Reagan counter-revolution to the sycophantic relationship between Hollywood and Langley. From Robert Parry to Robert Kagan, from South Vietnam to Baghdad, the story of CIA information warfare is a long and sordid one, and Schou’s new book is an important contribution in telling it.
NEW YORK — (Analysis) New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton formally announced his resignation on Tuesday, marking the end of a tumultuous second term as the NYPD’s top cop.
Bratton, largely seen as the architect of the “broken windows” law enforcement strategy that targets low-level offenses in order to stop larger offenses, has been heavily criticized by social justice advocates, who have charged that Bratton’s tactics amount to a targeting of people of color who are then saddled with criminal records, promoting further problems for themselves and their families.
While Bratton touts his record on crime – NYC has seen crime, especially violent crime, continue to drop to record lows under Bratton – he has a much more dubious record when it comes to police-community engagement. If anything, Bratton has become a lightning rod for criticism, especially in the wake of the 2014 murder of Eric Garner by NYPD officers, none of whom faced any criminal repercussions. Bratton faced similar criticisms in his other positions, including in Los Angeles and Boston, where he was sharply criticized for many of the same policies.
His resignation provides yet another scandalous example of how Bratton represents the very worst of the political establishment in the United States. While some will be celebrating his retreat from public office, it is critical to note that Bratton has accepted a job with Teneo Holdings, a consulting group closely linked to the Clinton political machine, as well as Israel and its lobby.
And it is here, at the crossroads of the national security state and the political ruling class, that Bratton will continue to protect and serve — the interests of the elite, that is.
Behind the curtain at Teneo Holdings
Teneo Holdings may ring a bell for political junkies, mainly because of the controversy that erupted in 2013 after it was revealed that Huma Abedin, the top aide to Hillary Clinton and wife of disgraced New York Rep. Anthony Weiner, had failed to disclose that she was simultaneously employed by the State Department and as a consultant for Teneo.
Of course, it wasn’t simply the lack of transparency that was of concern, but rather the obvious conflict of interest for a State Department employee with access to top level cabinet officials in the Obama administration to be representing outside interests. Indeed, this sort of highly unethical move by a close Clinton confidante is really par for the course for Hillary (and Bill) whose unethical dealings include overseeing arms deals to Clinton Foundation donors, appointing Clinton Foundation donors to key State Department positions, andraising money from individuals closely connected to foreign governments, among others.
This election season has brought to the surface an issue that, until recently, seemed to have become a neoliberal sacred cow, the holy writ of the lords of capital: free trade. And while this cornerstone of US economic hegemony has come under fire from a deeply reactionary, and to varying degrees racist and xenophobic, perspective, as expressed by Donald Trump, it has nevertheless sparked a much needed conversation about free trade and its destructive impact on both the American working class, and the Global South as well.
But free trade having become a campaign issue has also spotlighted for the umpteenth time the breathtaking hypocrisy of Hillary Clinton who I have previously referred to as the high priestess of the Church of Free Trade and Neoliberalism. For it is, in fact, Hillary Clinton who has for more than two decades been one of the loudest and most resolute voices championing neoliberalism and free trade. And still, despite her record, Clinton today presents herself as a friend of the working class. The same working class that has been all but eviscerated by the policies she herself has supported.
This is, of course, not to say that Trump is somehow the great defender of workers and the poor – his long track record as a predatory, racist real estate developer illustrates his complete lack of concern for oppressed communities and workers. Still, like a sadistic dentist, Trump has deliberately struck a nerve in the body politic of the US. For Trump has managed to eschew the typical right wing cultural wedge issues of gay marriage, abortion, and the like in favor of the core economic concerns of the working class.
Whatever one’s opinion of Trump, one can say with certainty that his reintroduction of the free trade into the national conversation has forced Hillary Clinton onto the back foot.
Hillary Clinton, NAFTA, and the Attack on American Workers
“I think that everybody is in favor of free and fair trade, and I think that NAFTA is proving its worth.” Or so Hillary Clinton said in 1996, more than two years after the North American Free Trade Agreement was enacted under her husband’s administration. At the time one could still labor under the illusion – or perhaps it was delusion? – that NAFTA was going to benefit workers in the US, Canada, and Mexico by allowing for the free flow of goods (and capital) leading to decreased prices for many consumer goods. Indeed, that was precisely the mythology that was peddled at the time.
While it’s true that many experts and workers alike, especially those on the Left, were deeply suspicious about the inflated claims of the glorious benefits of the NAFTA utopia of the future, the concept was made into policy, and the policy translated into a grim reality for US workers. As the Economic Policy Institute noted in 2013:
By establishing the principle that U.S. corporations could relocate production elsewhere and sell back into the United States, NAFTA undercut the bargaining power of American workers, which had driven the expansion of the middle class since the end of World War II. The result has been 20 years of stagnant wages and the upward redistribution of income, wealth and political power.
Without question, NAFTA was a direct assault on the US working class. Its repercussions are still being felt today. As the Economic Policy Institute further explained, NAFTA had four major negative impacts:
- The loss of at least 700,000 jobs due to production moving to Mexico. Some of the heaviest losses were felt in California, Texas, Michigan and other manufacturing-dependent states, particularly those in the Rust Belt.
- Allowed employers to drive down wages, slash benefits, and undermine and destroy unions. Because capital could always threaten to simply close up shop and move to Mexico, workers had little recourse but to accept the assault on their standards of living.
- It devastated the Mexican agricultural and small business sectors which led to the dislocation of millions of Mexican workers and small farmers, many of whom were forced to migrate to the US in search of work, thereby creating the immigration “problem” that Trump and his reactionary base have seized upon.
- It was the model free trade agreement, the blueprint upon which others were based. It laid the foundation for the neoliberal trade model wherein capital reaps the benefits while labor shoulders the costs.
Obviously, one could point out myriad other negative effects of NAFTA. But perhaps even better than that, one could simply take a drive down Interstates 80 and 90 – crossing through New Jersey, upstate New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, etc. – and get off almost anywhere and see the impacts for one’s self. Countless shuttered factories, depressed and often nearly abandoned towns and cities, and populations blighted by unemployment and the social breakdown that goes with it. The bleakness of the post-NAFTA industrial landscape is difficult to articulate, and is often completely hidden from view, especially for many working people in the population centers on the East and West coasts.
And this depression, both economic and psychological, is what Donald Trump has rather cynically exploited. The scapegoating of Mexican immigrants as economic parasites feasting on the blood of the American worker is a fairly predictable, though highly effective, means of marshaling support from the working class, in particular the white working class.
However, the political opportunism notwithstanding, it was not Donald Trump, but rather Hillary Clinton, who consistently was the unyielding supporter of NAFTA. As White House documents from the Clinton administration revealed, Hillary was one of the principal salespeople for NAFTA, going so far as to speak at a confidential White House briefing on NAFTA in November 1993, just a few days before it was approved by Congress. The documents also prove the fact that Hillary was, as John Nichols wrote in The Nation in 2008, “the featured speaker at a closed-door session where 120 women opinion leaders were hectored to pressure their congressional representatives to approve NAFTA.”
Clinton lobbied for NAFTA all throughout the halls of power in Washington, but also before the American people on television and in the major media. In short, NAFTA can be seen as one of Hillary’s crowning achievements; heavy is the head that wears such a crown.
Hillary the Hypocrite
Today Hillary Clinton shamelessly presents herself as a friend of working people. She trots out the elites of organized labor, concerned primarily with their own positions atop demoralized and fragmented unions, and trumpets their endorsements of her. And even these working class backstabbers have to grit their teeth and smile as they kneel before the high priestess herself in hopes of eight more years of privileged relations and fine dining.
But behind closed doors, everyone in America who even casually follows politics knows the truth: Hillary Clinton is a crusader for free trade and neoliberalism.
And that’s precisely why Hillary’s anti-free trade posture at election time is so deeply cynical, to say nothing of the insult to working people. In 2007-2008, in the midst of a hotly contested primary campaign against then Senator Barack Obama, Clinton repeatedly claimed that she was anti-free trade, and critical of NAFTA. In a debate in late 2007, Clinton admitted that NAFTA had been a mistake “to the extent that it did not deliver on what we had hoped it would.”
Of course, these were just the populist sentiments that Clinton knew she needed to utilize in order to deceive organized labor, and the working class in general, that she was an ally, rather than a devout worshiper at the altar of the god of neoliberalism.
After Obama became president and appointed Clinton Secretary of State she immediately reverted to being the great champion of free trade. Indeed, in her position as America’s top diplomat Clinton traveled the world preaching the gospel of free trade. And by this point she had a new holy scripture to tout: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
Clinton unabashedly lied during Democratic national debates on the issue of the TPP, saying that she now opposes it, despite having been in favor of it as late as 2012 when she said the TPP “sets the gold standard in trade agreements.” While she now masquerades as a protectionist opposing a deal that would be bad for working people, she has demonstrated her unflagging support for this type of so called free trade in the past.
To get a sense of just how insidious the TPP is for American workers, and in fact citizens of every country involved in the deal, consider the words of the Grand Poobah of the American Left, Noam Chomsky, who correctly explained that the TPP is “designed to carry forward the neoliberal project to maximize profit and domination, and to set the working people in the world in competition with one another so as to lower wages to increase insecurity.” In his characteristically soft-spoken manner, Chomsky manages to encapsulate the overarching danger that the TPP represents. And in so doing, he further implies that Hillary Clinton represents a serious threat to American workers.
Similarly, as Secretary of State, Clinton vocally backed the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), hailing it as an “economic NATO”. Leaving aside the terrifyingly ironic turn of phrase, Hillary’s support of TTIP represents support for yet another massive free trade deal that would have serious negative effects on workers, and indeed the majority of citizens, in the US and Europe. As Politico noted, “TTIP covers around a third of global trade. It would create an open market of 829 million consumers and expand a trade relationship that’s already worth €2 billion every day.”
And, just as with the TPP, TTIP is as much a political and geopolitical weapon as it is an economic arrangement. While TPP is aimed at economically isolating China (despite the raving lunacy of Donald Trump who argues just the opposite, that TPP will unfairly benefit China), TTIP is directed against Russia in hopes of depriving Moscow the chance at deepening economic ties with Europe.
And this is precisely why Clinton is the darling of both Wall Street and the neoconservative establishment. From the right wing financier Koch Brothers’ admission of support for Hillary, to the obvious backing of George Soros, Warren Buffett, and countless other liberal (and some conservative) Wall Street ghouls, Clinton has the near unanimous endorsements of the One Percent. It should be added that she is also being supported by arch-neocons such as Max Boot, who described Clinton as “vastly preferable,” Robert Kagan who sees Hillary as “saving the country,” and Eliot Cohen who described Clinton as “the lesser evil by a large margin.”
The reason for the near unanimous support is simple: Clinton will deliver all the economic policies, including TPP and free trade, that the Masters of Wall Street demand. And she’ll do it all while coldly smiling at every worker she meets on the campaign trail. She will also pursue just the sort of aggressive and belligerent foreign policy that makes neocons salivate at the prospect of more and bigger wars.
Ultimately, Clinton represents the very worst of the American political class – a cynical manipulator whose thirst for blood and war is matched only by her thirst for power. Lies flow from her mouth into the US political scene like water into a vast ocean. And, like water, she erodes the once sturdy rock of the working class in the United States.
The release by Wikileaks of a trove of emails from high-ranking Democratic Party officials has confirmed what many Americans – both progressive and conservative – have suspected throughout this election cycle: that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) actively conspired against Bernie Sanders in an attempt to ensure the nomination for Hillary Clinton.
But it wasn’t simply party apparatchiks like the disgraced Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the recently resigned Chair of the DNC and close ally of Clinton, but also their trusted cronies in the corporate media who actively collaborated with DNC officials to ensure that nothing too critical of Hillary would make it into the Mighty Wurlitzer of contemptibly ‘respectable’ journalism. Indeed, what the Wikileaks revelations expose to the world is the fact that there’s nothing democratic about the Democratic Party, or America’s alleged democracy in general.
More specifically however, the question that really must be asked is: why Hillary Clinton? What is it about this woman that unites nearly the entirety of the political, financial, socio-cultural, and military establishment? Is it really just hatred of Donald Trump? Or is there something more insidious, something that makes Hillary the irresistible flame of belligerence and exceptionalism to which the corporate-imperialist moths are slavishly attracted?
From Conspiracy Theory to Conspiracy Fact
For months the sentinels of the liberal media fortress derided all allegations of a DNC conspiracy against Bernie Sanders and the millions of Americans who #FeelTheBern, caricaturing these accusations as no different from the Illuminati-Freemason-Rothschild-Lizard People. Articles like Bernie Sanders Fans’ DNC ‘Collusion’ Conspiracy Theory is Embarrassing Garbage and Can we please stop with the Bernie Sanders conspiracy theories? were staples of the campaign once it became clear that the Berners were a real political force, and that the Sanders campaign could actually pose a threat to the establishment’s preferred proxy, Hillary Clinton.
And with each new article the level of condescension and derision seemed to increase to the point where Sanders’ supporters had been transformed into the embarrassingly clichéd tinfoil-hat wearers of Alex Jones land. But here we are, just a few months later, and Hillary Clinton has knelt for her coronation as Queen of the imperial castle. And in the midst of the insufferable Hollywood endorsements, the amnesiac revisionism, and the identitarian phantasmagoria, something amazing happened on the internet: the conspiracy theories were proven true.
Indeed, the Wikileaks emails show direct interventions against Bernie by the DNC. For instance, in late May, just three weeks before the all-important California primary, a DNC staffer emailed DNC Communications Director, Luis Miranda, pitching him a story about Bernie’s campaign being “a mess.” Specifically, the staffer wrote, “Wondering if there’s a good Bernie narrative for a story, which is that Bernie never ever had his act together, that his campaign was a mess…It’s not a DNC conspiracy, it’s because they never had their act together.”
What is particularly damning about the email is not that Bernie’s campaign was disorganized (entirely plausible), but rather that DNC staffers and communications director were attempting to manufacture and propagate news stories with that narrative, rather than acting as the impartial party functionaries that they shrilly proclaim themselves to be. In fact, corporate media outlets did indeed pick up parts of that narrative in the days and weeks leading up to the California primary, specifically the fact that Bernie’s campaign was poorly organized in terms of delegate education and other issues.
Even more egregious is the email from Communications Director Luis Miranda to a number of high-ranking DNC officials, including Wasserman-Schultz, in which he notes that the DNC was able to suppress key information from this New York Times article. Miranda was pleased that he was “able to keep him from including more on the JVF [Joint Victory Fund], it has a mention in there, but between us and a conversation he had with Marc Elias he finally backed off from focusing too much on that.”
This information is quite damning as it’s clear that Miranda, the spokesman for the DNC, deliberately attempted to shield Clinton from media criticism over the highly dubious “joint fundraising venture” the Joint Victory Fund, which is essentially a Hillary-DNC fundraising machine. While the JVF gets a passing mention in the article, there is no substantive examination of it, nor is there any context or comparison to the Bernie Sanders campaign whose fundraising was almost entirely based on small, individual contributions. In contrast, JVF included on its list of donors the Pritzker Group, Saban Capital Group, and other major players in finance capital and industry. Perhaps this information might have been valuable to the American public trying to decide whether to support Bernie or Hillary.
Or how about the Politico reporter who agreed to allow the DNC to review his article about Clinton’s fundraising before it was published? Does this strike you as real journalism? In an April 30, 2016 email, National Press Secretary and Deputy Communications Director Mark Paustenbach wrote to his boss Luis Miranda noting that Politico reporter Kenneth Vogel “gave me his story ahead of time/before it goes to his editors…Let me know if you see anything that’s missing and I’ll push back.”
In a sadly predictable, and grossly unethical, move, the DNC seems to have worked out deals with major media outlets that allowed them to censor corporate media stories about the Clinton campaign, or at the very least to slant them so as to make Clinton look like something less than the Voldemort of Wall Street and capital.
But it goes much further, and indeed gets even more unethical, than just collusion between corporate media and the DNC. The emails also reveal attempts to smear Sanders with quite literally any information that might damage him in key primary states. For instance, this email exchange between top DNC officials shows that they intended to “get someone to ask his belief. Does he believe in a God. [sic] He had skated on saying he has a Jewish heritage. I think I read he is an atheist. This could make several points difference with my peeps. My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist.” Clearly, in Kentucky and West Virginia, the DNC wanted to use Sanders’s religious beliefs, or lack thereof, against him. Such tactics are, to put it bluntly, reprehensible.
And of course we could go on and on with dozens of other emails demonstrating the level of collusion within the DNC, and with its media partners, to effectively undermine the Sanders campaign while propping up Clinton. I guess those arrogant pundits who derisively referred to the “embarrassing conspiracy theories” have some ‘splaining to do.
Why, Exactly, Is Everyone #WithHer?
For veterans of US politics, it should be relatively obvious why Hillary Clinton has been the clear darling of the establishment from the beginning of the race. And, considering the Democratic Party is a wholly owned subsidiary of Wall Street and the financial elites in the US, it almost goes without saying why the DNC would carry water for the Clinton campaign. Her record really speaks for itself.
Hillary Clinton is an unabashed warmonger, a woman who has demonstrated time and again her willingness to bomb, invade, and destroy nations all over the globe. From championing her husband’s criminal bombing of Serbia, to supporting George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq, to being the principal cheerleader for bombing and destroying Libya and Syria, Hillary’s devotion to the military-industrial complex and the mentality of the Cold War is beyond dispute.
While running for Senate in 2000, Clinton explicated her foreign policy outlook when, according the New York Times, “She cited American involvement in Bosnia and Kosovo as examples of foreign engagements she favored on moral and strategic grounds.” And, according to Hillary biographer Gail Sheehy, Clinton proudly proclaimed “I urged [Bill Clinton] to bomb [Serbia].” One could be forgiven for thinking these are the smug, egomaniacal claims of a sociopath; they are, but they’re also the words of America’s likely next president.
But aside from simply delighting in the death and destruction she can rain down upon weaker nations, Hillary is also the standard-bearer for finance capital and Wall Street. Her connections to Goldman Sachs and nearly every major bank make her statements about reining in Wall Street both laughable and deeply infuriating; there’s only so much cynicism a country can take. So, wealthy benefactors like George Soros, the Pritzker family, Haim Saban, and many others fall over themselves to line up behind the First Woman PresidentTM just as they did behind The First Black PresidentTM.
And this point must not be understated. Identity politics is one of the principal levers by which the Democratic Party keeps liberal America in line. Never mind that The First Black PresidentTM expanded AFRICOM, killed the single most important African leader, continued the oppression and exploitation of millions of Africans all over the continent, presided over the rapid expansion of drone assassinations, and so much worse; forget all that, I mean, he’s black. Similarly, Hillary is able to translate her gender into political currency, one that allows the Democratic Party to continue the charade that it is a party for everyone.
And of course, who could forget economic policy? Clinton represents the best of what Wall Street has to offer. She is a devout neoliberal, the high priestess of the Church of Free Trade. She and her husband presided over the passage of NAFTA which has devastated millions of Mexican families while gutting the American industrial base, all the while making superprofits for Big Agribusiness, Big Retail, and big banks.
In effect, Clinton is quite similar to Obama in that both have an insatiable appetite for war and the economic orthodoxy of neoliberalism. As such, both are the quintessential Democrats: political snake-charmers whose smiles and warm embraces hide the coldness of their hearts, whose devotion to the multicultural rainbow belies their deep hatred of the working class and poor.
And of course, it is imperialism abroad and neoliberalism at home that makes an establishment leader. It is a reckless disregard for the rights of ordinary Americans, as well as those around the world, that makes one “Presidential.” It is a deep sociopathy that truly demonstrates that a politician is ready for the office. So, given that, it would seem that America is indeed #ReadyForHillary.
This week Eric welcomes to the show activist and scholar Dr. Anthony Monteiro to discuss his recent trip to Cleveland for the Republican National Convention, and what he learned about the Trump movement. The conversation touches on the class character of the Trumpen Proletariat, and whether or not this represents a transformation of the Republican Party, and potentially US politics as a whole. Eric and Tony examine the nature of fascism, how it has manifested in the US today, and what the future may hold. They go into everything from the ascendance of the far right in Europe, to the potential for substantive solutions and movement-building here in the US. All this and so so much more in this lively chat between two friends on the radical left.