Underground Democracy

September 8, 2014 | By | 5 Replies More

At Truthdig, Chris Hedges points out that our real rulers are invisible and that our purported Democratic process is largely a distraction:

Politics, if we take politics to mean the shaping and discussion of issues, concerns and laws that foster the common good, is no longer the business of our traditional political institutions. These institutions, including the two major political parties, the courts and the press, are not democratic. They are used to crush any vestiges of civic life that calls, as a traditional democracy does, on its citizens to share among all its members the benefits, sacrifices and risks of a nation. They offer only the facade of politics, along with elaborate, choreographed spectacles filled with skillfully manufactured emotion and devoid of real political content. We have devolved into what Alexis de Tocqueville feared—“democratic despotism.”

The squabbles among the power elites, rampant militarism and the disease of imperialism, along with a mindless nationalism that characterizes all public debate, have turned officially sanctioned politics into a carnival act.

Pundits and news celebrities on the airwaves engage in fevered speculation about whether the wife of a former president will run for office—and this after the mediocre son of another president spent eight years in the White House. This is not politics. It is gossip. Opinion polls, the staple of what serves as political reporting, are not politics. They are forms of social control. The use of billions of dollars to fund election campaigns and pay lobbyists to author legislation is not politics. It is legalized bribery. The insistence that austerity and economic rationality, rather than the welfare of the citizenry, be the primary concerns of the government is not politics. It is the death of civic virtue. The government’s system of wholesale surveillance and the militarization of police forces, along with the psychosis of permanent war and state-orchestrated fear of terrorism, are not politics. They are about eradicating civil liberties and justifying endless war and state violence. The chatter about death panels, abortion, gay rights, guns and undocumented children crossing the border is not politics. It is manipulation by the power elites of emotion, hate and fear to divert us from seeing our own powerlessness.

“Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country,” Edward Bernays observed in his 1928 book, “Propaganda.” “We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.”

Politics in the hands of the corporate state is anti-politics. It is designed to denigrate and destroy the values that make a liberal democracy and political participation possible. It is a cynical form of mass control. Corporate money has replaced the vote. Dissent is silenced or ignored. Political parties are Punch and Judy shows funded by corporate puppeteers. Universities, once the epicenter of social change, are corporate headquarters, flush with corporate money, government contracts and foundation grants. The commercial press, whose primary task is attracting advertising dollars, has become an arm of the entertainment industry. It offers news as vaudeville.

Genuine political activity, the organizing work needed to protect citizens from the abuses of power, exists only on the margins of society. Politics in America has gone underground.


Category: Corporatocracy, Corruption, Patriotism/Nationalism, populism

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (5)

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  1. Edgar Montrose says:

    Erich: “… our purported Democratic process is largely a distraction”.

    Here is the actual response that I received this morning from Senator Blunt, regarding a petition to overturn Citizens United that I signed. Note that he does not say, “I respect your opinion and will take it, as well as those of others, into account so that I can represent the will of my constituents.” Instead he just lectures me about where *he* stands:

    Dear (Edgar),

    Thank you for contacting me regarding campaign finance reform.

    The First Amendment of the Constitution protects the right to free
    speech for all Americans. When challenged in courts, any regulation
    limiting this right is appropriately scrutinized by judges faced with
    these decisions.

    As you may know, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the aggregate
    limits on the combined amount an individual may contribute during a
    two-year period to all federal candidates, parties and political action
    committees in the McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission decision.

    Current campaign disclosure laws help promote transparency by requiring
    the public disclosure of all campaign donations. As a former Missouri
    Secretary of State and county clerk, I value and respect the right of
    all Americans to speak out by supporting the candidates and causes of
    their choice by donating to his or her campaign.

    Again, thank you for contacting me. I look forward to continuing our
    conversation on Facebook (www.facebook.com/SenatorBlunt
    ) and Twitter
    (www.twitter.com/RoyBlunt ) about the
    important issues facing Missouri and the country. I also encourage you
    to visit my website (blunt.senate.gov ) to
    learn more about where I stand on the issues and sign-up for my

    Sincere regards,

    Roy Blunt
    United States Senator

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Edgar: Blunt is entirely predictable. He is a puppet of the Chamber of Commerce. I’ve written to his office many times and receive similar simplistic responses. So sad. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    Looks like he hit the nail squarely on the head.

  3. grumpypilgrim says:

    Bill Maher made a great point on Charlie Rose last night. He noted that Congress has an approval rating of about 10% (or lower), yet incumbents have about a 90% chance of winning re-election. Maher attributed this imbalance to: (a) big money donors, and (b) gerrymandered districts. We can thank Citizens United for the former. As to the latter, an opinion on one of my local television stations put it like this: we no longer have voters choosing their elected officials, we have elected officials choosing their voters.

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