wingolog

red pill

19 June 2008 0:48 AM (unwelcome guests | cooling out | red pill | the matrix | naomi klein)

I am, in some sense, relieved that Obama won the Democratic primaries this year, defeating the Clinton machine and its +47 cloak of inevitability. It is possible that Obama effect some meaningful change in the US, and in the world.

But.

As an attendee of the recent National Conference for Media Reform noted (edited slightly),

Although there can be something invigorating about being in such a large crowd of like-minded people, I feel more passion and energy in a march, where we are more participants than audience.

Strangely, as I wrote those very words, Naomi Klein spoke of the need to stop treating politicians “as celebrities, as rock stars” - that is, that the public should have an active relationship with their politicians, pushing back and shaping their actions and policies. As she puts it, “the greatest gift you can give Barack Obama” is to keep the pressure on, so when he talks with Wall Street backers he can say “Look: I've got no choice. They’re crazy out there!”

We're crazy out here: being realistic, demanding the impossible!

It is with this perspective that we should approach the upcoming Obama election. Let's cut the rock star crap (in politics and elsewhere: here's looking at you, Jono), and start to focus on organizing to get what we want, on direct action. Obama is an instrument of the people, not an agent for the people; any other formulation is anti-democratic.

Klein continues, in a riveting speech that starts at about minute 43 in this 30 MB MP3:

The hard truth is this: Obama may have the energy, and the anger, and the networks of the anti-war vote, but he does not have a plan to get us out of Iraq.

What he has is a plan to downsize the occupation of Iraq, not to end it.

He talks about keeping the "green zone" intact and calls it ending the war. Let me tell you, you cannot keep the "green zone", which is the symbol of the foreign occupation of Iraq, without a massive troop presence, which includes the military contractors like Blackwater as well.

He may have the very real rage at the income equality that has opened up in this country and around the world, but I am sad to say that he does not have a real plan to close that gap.

And he may have the incredible, inspiring idealism of young environmentalists, who are terrified about the future of this planet, but he does not have a green agenda that is a match to our climate crisis.

the cooling out of america, or: "we, the marks"

I can understand that people want to support Obama. I hope he wins. But how can Big Pharma give $700K to a candidate that will do what needs to be done to US healthcare? (What the hell is a "Health Product" anyway?) Or what about the bankers, the authors of the recent and ongoing securitization debacle and subsequent commodities speculation?

Or, to take things from the other side, where is the money going? Well, it's basically funneling back into the institutions that sold us the Iraq war in the first place: according to my readings of the interwebs, about half a million a day just on television, an American institution so shameful it makes Berlusconi jealous.

Back in the Clinton years, former computer programmer Richard Moore used the red pill / blue pill metaphor of The Matrix to write of the state of popular delusion:

When I started tracing historical forces, and began to interpret present-day events from a historical perspective, I could see the same old dynamics at work and found a meaning in unfolding events far different from what official pronouncements proclaimed. Such pronouncements are, after all, public relations fare, given out by politicians who want to look good to the voters. Most of us expect rhetoric from politicians, and take what they say with a grain of salt. But as my own picture of present reality came into focus, "grain of salt" no longer worked as a metaphor. I began to see that consensus reality -- as generated by official rhetoric and amplified by mass media -- bears very little relationship to actual reality. "The matrix" was a metaphor I was ready for.

Escaping the Matrix, 2000; best listened to over mp3, but also available as text

Among the chief strategies for construction of a humane, red-pill future has to be a creation of new media. The apparati through which we perceive the world must belong to us, and work for our interests, instead of trying to sell us cars and pan bimbo.

In recent months, my most consistent source of political analysis has been Unwelcome Guests. Lyn Gerry is sharp, and caring. I've grown rather fond of her plodding voice. And she's an old hacker of sorts: with a few other folks back in 1996, she founded radio4all, an interwebby place to exchange radio clips for broadcast on community radio. Also, "[t]he Radio Project supports the Free Software Movement, and uses free software wherever possible."

But I digress. Gerry is great. I've probably listened to 400 hours of her shows over the past six months, easily worth more in mind-expansion and education that a number of classes I endured in college, put together. She is my red pill.

a mar revuelto, ganancia de pescadores?

The red pill, once taken, opens the mind past the current Oceania-vs-Eastasia sports-like rivalries that the media take as the gamut of allowable political participation. Obama is not some crazy human hope, object of mystery and fervor -- he is merely a tool, a tool of the people, a stake in the ground in a much larger fight. Gerry says:

It makes me crazy every time I hear some talking head or pundit or politician pretend they didn't know from jump street that, for example, the Bush administration lied about WMD in Iraq. You and I knew it was a lie, and if I, a radio producer with a budget of 0, and a staff of 1, who lives in a rural town with a population slightly above 2000, can find that out and report on it, you bet those well-funded networks can. The people that run them may be craven and they may be cowards, but they're not stupid. They lie to us because they want us to be ignorant and subservient. Knowledge is power, and that's why a free press matters.

So if you find yourself with 20 or 100 bucks, and in an impassioned or drunken moment want to use it to change the world, think twice before clicking "submit" on barackobama.com. Maybe your local community radio or your radical press or Z communications or radio4all.net could use it more.

7 responses

  1. Ian Lawrence says:

    You sir, rock. I enjoyed this immensly

  2. Gabriel says:

    Thanks for the link to UG - I've subscribed to the podcast.

    It's important to remember that Barack Obama doesn't take money from PACs or lobbyists (and recently forced the Democratic National Committee to do the same). He has raised more money than any other candidate ever, so it's not surprising that he's raised a bunch from every "industry" - which in his case is nothing more than the sum of donations from individuals who report their employer. I'm sure you know this, but it's good to keep in mind. From the fine print on opensecrets.org:

    "METHODOLOGY: The totals on these charts are calculated from PAC contributions and contributions from individuals giving more than $200, as reported to the Federal Election Commission. Individual contributions are generally categorized based on the donor's occupation/employer, although individuals may be classified instead as ideological donors if they've given more than $200 to an ideological PAC."

    He's way ahead on the Computer/Internet industry too - http://opensecrets.org/pres08/select.php?ind=B12 - but that's from people like me, passionate individuals who are donating to him because it's right, because he will make the world a better place, not because it's good for my industry.

  3. Joe Buck says:

    Gabriel's exactly right; Obama isn't indebted to Big Pharma because $700K out of the hundred million he raised comes from people who work for a pharmaceutical company. Precisely because he got where he is by raising small amounts of money from larger numbers of people, he doesn't owe any particular contributor a significant debt.

    That said, of course you're right about keeping the pressure on. He has centrist instincts, and it's going to shake things up as much as they need to be shaken unless the heat is on.

  4. Pete Zaitcev says:

    Obama is a product of Chicago's toxic politics. It's insane to project the ideas of meaningful change onto him. Of course he's only too happy to oblidge and change his colors as long as the gullible help him to satisfy his lust for power.

  5. Jorn Baayen says:

    Have you seen therealnews.com?

  6. Russell says:

    We've had a lot of reason to be cynical in past cycles, but this cycle really is something new. Obama and McCain have a lot more freedom from special interest groups than anyone seems to realize.

    What influence these groups have is at the invitation of the candidates themselves. Since those cards are pretty much on the table, I think it's safe to say that Obama looks pretty damn good.

    That's why people are excited. It isn't becuase he's a rock star. People are excited because they feel that -- for the first time in living memory -- we might actually have the real deal.

  7. Ricky Youngblood says:

    I liked the matrix a lot too.

    Obama's support of ethanol blows. He rejection of public financing is lame. He is changing his stance on lots of other things too. However, the leader you communist gits are looking for does not exist. The guy is quite imperfect but is probably about the best thing that we can get >50% of the voting population to rally around.

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