society of the spectacle

Image: Pierre Blaché


The spectacle is all that remains for the American ruling class

The Select Committee to Investigate the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Congress, whose first six televised public hearings began on June 09, is a spectacle that replaces politics. There is nothing substantially new in the allegations. The committee does not have prosecutorial powers. No charges have been filed by US Attorney General Merrick Garland against former President Donald Trump and none are expected.

The choreographed hearings – as were the Donald Trump impeachment trials – will have no effect on Trump voters other than making them feel persecuted, especially considering the more than 860 people who have already been charged. (including 306 self-declarations of guilt) for his role in the Capitol invasion.[I] The committee echoes what Trump's opponents already believed. This committee was designed to present inaction as action and replace politics with farcical role-playing. As Guy Debord writes, he perpetuates the North American “empire of modern passivity”.

The committee – boycotted by most Republicans – hired James Goldston,[ii] a documentary producer and former president of the network ABC News, to transform audiences into engaging television shows cleverly packaged with a variety of pithy one-liners. The result of this is – as it was intended to be – politics as “reality tv”, a media diversion that will change nothing in the somber American landscape. What should have been a serious bipartisan investigation into the range of constitutional violations committed by the Trump administration has been turned into a prime-time campaign commercial for a run-down Democratic Party. The epistemology of television is complete. And so is your artifice.

The two established wings of the oligarchy – the old Republican Party represented by politicians like Liz Cheney, one of the two Republicans on the committee, and the Bush family – are now united with the Democratic Party elite, forming a single dominant political entity.[iii] The ruling parties had marched together for decades on important issues – including: war, trade deals, austerity, the militarization of the police, prisons, government surveillance and the assault on civil liberties. They worked in parallel to pervert and destroy democratic institutions, to the benefit of the rich and corporations. They worked desperately together to quell the anger of angry and betrayed white workers who support Donald Trump and the far right.

Committee members cloyingly seek to sanctify themselves and their audiences by claiming to uphold the constitution, democracy, America's Founding Fathers, the rule of law, the consent of the governed, and the electoral process.

Committee chairman Bennie Thompson spoke of "the domestic enemies of the Constitution who stormed the Capitol and occupied the Capitol, tried to thwart the will of the people and prevent the transfer of power." Liz Cheney called the Capitol "a sacred space in our constitutional republic."[iv]

There was no acknowledgment by committee members that “the will of the people” was subverted by the three powers of the republic in order to serve the bidding of the billionaire class. No one mentioned the armies of lobbyists who are allowed to storm the Capitol daily to fund legalized election bribery and to write the pro-corporate laws they pass. Nobody spoke about the loss of constitutional rights – including the right to privacy. No one mentioned the disastrous trade deals that deindustrialized the country and impoverished the working class. Nobody talked about the military fiascos in the Middle East, which cost taxpayers $8 trillion, or the for-profit health care system that deceives the public and prevents a rational response to the pandemic – which has already resulted in more than a million deaths. of deaths – nor the privatization of government institutions, including schools, prisons, water treatment, garbage collection, parking meters, public utilities and even intelligence gathering, to enrich the billionaire class at the expense of the population.

The gaping hole between the reality of what we've become and the fiction of who we're supposed to be is why the spectacle is all the ruling class has left. The spectacle takes the place of politics. This is a tacit admission that all social programs - whether the plan Build Back Better [Build Back Better], banning offensive weapons of war, raising the minimum wage, slowing the ravages of inflation, or instituting environmental reforms to avert the climate emergency – will never be implemented. Those who occupy the “sacred space” of “our constitutional republic” are only able to pour money into war, allocating $54 billion to Ukraine and enacting ever-increasing military budgets to enrich the armaments industry.

The bigger the gap gets between the ideal and the real, the more empowered will be the proto-fascists who are fixated on retaking the majority of Congress in the November elections of this year. If the rational, factual world doesn't work, why not try one of the many conspiracy theories? If that's what democracy means, why support democracy?

The right also communicates through the spectacle. What were the four years of Donald Trump's presidency if not a vast spectacle? Spectacle versus spectacle. The aesthetic of the spectacle is all that remains, as it was in the waning days of the Roman Empire and Tsarist Russia. “Our politics, religion, news, sports, education, and commerce have been turned into congenial adjuncts to the show business”, wrote Neil Postman in his book Amusing ourselves to death: public discourse in the age of show business [We're Having Fun: Public Discourse in the Age of show business]. Blinded by its haughtiness and pomposity, the current ruling class, however, is not very good at it.

The far right – who believe that vaccines cause autism, that angels exist, that a cabal of satanic, cannibalistic child abusers who operate a global child sex trafficking network are trying to destroy Donald Trump, and the inerrancy of the Bible – this is very more fun, even as it accelerates the solidification of corporate tyranny. If the republic is dead, do you want to see Joe Biden babble his way through yet another press conference, or the parody of Rand Paul sawing the tax code in half, and Ted Cruz accusing Barak Obama of trying to provide "expanded Medicaid" to the ISIS?

Do you want to wake up to the latest rhetorical outrage from Donald Trump – who, when he was campaigning for the presidency, accused Trump of being the founder of ISIS, who suggested that Ted Cruz's father was involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy, who argued that noise from windmills from wind energy causes cancer and recommended ingesting disinfectant to fight COVID, or pay homage to a set of values ​​that were long ago discarded by the ruling class and replaced by lies, corruption and greed?

In short, since the system has betrayed and fleeced you, why not dismantle it with the vulgarity and crudity it deserves? Why not get entertained by political firebrands? Why engage in the polite courtesies and political decorum demanded by those who destroyed our communities, ruined the nation, looted the US Treasury, oversaw a series of costly military disasters, and robbed us of our ability to earn an adequate standard of living? , as well as the future of our children?

In 1924, the government of Weimar Germany decided to get rid of Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist German Workers Party, the Nazis, by trying Hitler for high treason at the People's Court. It was clear that Hitler was guilty. He had tried to overthrow the elected government with his 1923 “Brewery Coup” fiasco – which, like the January 6, 2021 riot on Capitol Hill, was more farce than insurrection. That was a case to open and close. However, the plan backfired and the trial turned Hitler into a national martyr and boosted the political destiny of the Nazis.

The reason for this should have been apparent. Germany was a mess, convulsed by widespread unemployment, food riots, street violence and hyperinflation. The German ruling classes, like the American ones, lacked credibility. The appeal to the rule of law and democratic values ​​was a joke.

There was a telling moment in the [Congressional] hearings last week, when Capitol Guard Officer Caroline Edwards, who suffered a concussion of the skull during the Capitol storming, recounted a conversation she had with Joseph Biggs, the leader of the The Proud Boys who was indicted along with four other leaders of the group for seditious conspiracy in connection with the robbery of the Capitol.

“The tide began to turn when what is now the Arizona group – that's what you said – the people in the orange caps, they came in chanting 'FUCK Antifa,'” Edwards told the committee. “And they joined that group. Once together, Biggs' rhetoric turned against the Capitol Police. He started asking us questions like, "You didn't miss your paycheck during the pandemic, did you?", mentioned things about our pay scale and, you know. It started to turn against us.”

That brief conversation underscored the huge gap between the haves and the have-nots – which, if left unaddressed, will transform Donald Trump, his supporters, Biggs, the Proud Boys and os oath keepers in martyrs.

The US Congress is a cesspool. Corrupt politicians whore for the rich and become rich in return. This reality – which audiences ignore – is apparent to most of the nation; that is why the hearings will not bolster the salient fortunes of the ruling political class, desperate to avoid its replacement.

The old ruling class is destined for extinction, not that what follows will be better. Will not be. But the game of looting and corruption in the name of sacred democratic values ​​no longer works. A new game is taking its place, in which the narcissistic buffoons who stoke the fires of hatred and who only know how to destroy will entertain us to death.

*Chris Hedges is a journalist. Author, among other books, of Empire of illusion: the end of literacy and the triumph of spectacle (nation books).

Translation: Rubens Turkienicz to the portal Brazil 247.

Originally published on The Chris Hedges Report







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