Power elites, blinded by hubris, intoxicated by absolute power, unable to set limits on their exploitation of the underclass, propelled to expand empire beyond its capacity to sustain itself, addicted to hedonism, spectacle and wealth, surrounded by half-witted courtiers—Alan Greenspan, Thomas Friedman, David Brooks and others—who tell them what they want to hear, and enveloped by a false sense of security because of their ability to employ massive state violence, are the last to know their privileged world is imploding.
“History,” the Italian sociologist Vilfredo Pareto wrote, “is the graveyard of aristocracies.”
The carnival of the presidential election is a public display of the deep morbidity and artifice that have gripped American society. Political discourse has been reduced by design to trite patriotic and religious clichés, sentimentality, sanctimonious paeans to the American character, a sacralization of militarism, and acerbic, adolescent taunts. Reality has been left behind.
Politicians are little more than brands. They sell skillfully manufactured personalities. These artificial personalities are used to humanize corporate oppression. They cannot—and do not intend to—end the futile and ceaseless wars, dismantle the security and surveillance state, halt the fossil fuel industry’s ecocide, curb the predatory class of bankers and international financiers, lift Americans out of poverty or restore democracy. They practice anti-politics, or what Benjamin DeMott called “junk politics.” DeMott defined the term in his book “Junk Politics: The Trashing of the American Mind”:
It’s a politics that personalizes and moralizes issues and interests instead of clarifying them. It’s a politics that maximizes threats from abroad while miniaturizing large, complex problems at home. It’s a politics that, guided by guesses about its own profits and losses, abruptly reverses public stances without explanation, often spectacularly bloating problems previously miniaturized (e.g.: Iraq will be over in days or weeks: Iraq is a project for generations). It’s a politics that takes changelessness as its fundamental cause—changelessness meaning zero interruption in the processes and practices that, decade after decade, strengthen existing, interlocking American systems of socioeconomic advantage. And it’s a politics marked not only by impatience (feigned or otherwise) with articulated conflict and by frequent panegyrics on the American citizen’s optimistic spirit and exemplary character, but by mawkish fondness for feel-your-pain gestures and idioms.