Income inequality in America has officially reached its highest level since the Great Depression. Conservative estimates now have a third of us living at or below the poverty line, but in real life, fully 50% of the population is teetering on the brink of financial catastrophe. Compared to the rest of the civilized world, only the recent dictator- devastated Romania ranks lower than we do on the child poverty scale. These stats are a feature -- not a bug -- of what happens when plutocrats take charge, and government for the commonweal falls down the memory hole.
And adding insult to the injury of a financial oligarchy run amok, it turns out that a parallel criminal surveillance state has been operating in plain sight for years, both within and without our "borders" -- and it's getting bigger and nastier and more intrusive and less accountable all the time.
The natives have been getting restless. McWorkers are starting to walk off their jobs, clamoring for a living wage. The vast majority of Americans have reported themselves to be upset about government spying, and Edward Snowden is reaping higher approval ratings than Barack Obama. Erstwhile complicit Congress Critters were even threatening to hold hearings in order to hold the burglars of the NSA to account.
So, dutiful placeholders of neo-feudalism and neo-fascism that they are, the revolving-door leadership of the Military-Industrial-Media-Spy Complex has sprung into action. They've deflected attention away from their own dastardly deeds and created a brand new villain for our outraged pleasure.
Quickly advancing from merely being the Butcher of Damascus to exploding on the scene as the Hitler of the 21st Century, Syrian President Anwar al-Assad, mass exterminator of children, is the perfect villain. Add to the mix Vlad the Bad, suppressor of LGBT rights in Russia, and you've got yourself the perfect scenario for what Noam Chomsky has called "diverting the bewildered herd."
Every so often, in our long slog to the bottom, our leaders have to create a new monster to deflect attention away from their own monstrosity. Communism filled that role from the Fabulous Fifties, as the destruction of the New Deal and unions began, right up to the Fall of the Wall. Then, conveniently enough, came 9/11 and the open-ended, treasure and life-depleting Middle Eastern wars, security state-bloating war on terror, the whole globe becoming one big battlefield and corporate-friendly free trade zone. Next, thanks to financial deregulation, the economy crashed and burned. And for a couple of years, the marketing campaign miracle known as Barack Obama kept the restive herd temporarily penned in, chewing the cud of his delicious words.
Then along came Occupy (for the moment, anyway, suppressed.) Then along came Snowden, and polls began to show that people are refusing, any longer, to be terrorized. So, the Powers That Be started beating the war drums once again. Only this time, the people (and the whole world) were refusing to be tamed. They were saying No To War. So the president saved face by pretending to democratically punt over to Congress, which in turn, suddenly forgot all about the rogues of the NSA, in their haste to go on TV to posture For War, Against War, or Not Sure.
The consumers of America are riveted. The blogosphere (myself included) ignores Snowden, the endless depression, the political graft, and the fact that not one banker is in jail as the five year statute of limitation on financial fraud of epic proportions draws to its convenient close.
Meanwhile, we the protesters of America are cheering because our People Power stopped the war in its tracks. We are celebrating Putin for Peace, and his ad agency-written New York Times op-ed. But wait. Right in plain sight, war is very much being waged, conducted in the usual manner: secretly, and proxified. That "no boots on the ground" mantra? It is absolutely meaningless when you consider that the true prosecutors, their own tender feet probably cleverly ensconced in thousand-dollar CJ Cleverley Bespokes, were only talking about GI grunt-brand boots. American weapons and personnel are absolutely on the ground, on Syrian soil, in the form of a secretly and grossly overfunded CIA, SEALs, Special Ops, and who knows who and what else. Of course, as official White House plumbers have leaked in their announcements to the corporate media, the American secret forces and associated clients only entered Syria after the Sarin attacks. Uh-huh.
Congressional approval for war is just a nicety to keep the herd diverted and believing that, despite what President Jimmy Carter recently said, we still have a functioning democracy. MoveOn, that mass herder of progressive veal, has suddenly stopped its email blasts begging for money in the name of anti-war. Critics, accused of being Nazi collaborators for speaking out against Syrian airstrikes to kill more children to avenge dead children, are being muted. We are nobly giving peace a chance at the same time we are languishing in our own domestic misery. We are back to rooting for Democrats vs Republicans, Barack vs Vlad, instead of noticing or caring that the Class War continues apace, and that we are on the losing end.
Meanwhile, to make us feel empowered™ in this, our time of mass joblessness and hunger, First Lady Michelle Obama has gone on her own offensive. Nancy Reagan once pompously advised us to Just Say No to Drugs, but Michelle is urging us to Just Drink Water (carefully not touting either the dubious health benefits or even the dangers of drinking too much of it.)
Long forgotten are the days of the last Great Depression, when Eleanor Roosevelt actually visited poor people where they lived, listened to them verbalize their own needs. The poor have always been more than capable of knowing what they need: food, shelter, a decent income, medicine, child care, jobs. Where are the jobs, and where are the leaders who care?
But this is now, the times of the New Normal and government by technocrat and ad campaign. To make her latest initiative every bit as effective as partnering with national wage-slavemaster Walmart to shill for fresh food, our current FLOTUS is partnering™ with the lucrative bottled water industry to encourage us to buy our water as well as drink it. Evian and Poland Spring and the rest of the privatized water cartel will start carrying Michelle's "Let's Drink Up!" logo on their products, the better to entice you in the grocery store aisles, your meager SNAP benefit card in hand. Because, as we all know, keeping the kids' bellies bloated with water temporarily staves off hunger. We have been taught by TV commercials that bottled water that you purchase is "better" and more upwardly mobile than free water from your kitchen tap. (Even though there is absolutely no difference in taste or quality, and the still-unbanned BPA in plastic bottles is actually quite harmful to your health) By purchasing water, you are good patriotic citizens helping to support a handful of low paying non-union jobs in bottling plants. You will also be boosting the tax-exempt Petroleum Industry, whose raw materials make up the plastic bottles. So drink for yourself, drink for America, and drink for Exxon-Mobil.
A water-logged herd is so much easier to divert. Away from the flood, and right over the cliff.