BRAVE NEW MCWORLDBy Carla Binion
Rutgers political science professor Benjamin Barber says in
"Jihad vs. McWorld" that today's corporate culture spins a
shimmering scenario of "corporate forces that demand
integration and uniformity and that mesmerize people
everywhere with fast music, fast computers, and fast food --
with MTV, Macintosh, and McDonald's, pressing nations into
one commercially homogenous theme park: a veritable McWorld
tied together by communications, information, entertainment
In this fast-paced, mesmerized McWorld the public attention
flits rapidly from one important news story to the next.
Now we see Impeachment; now we don't! Now we see Seattle;
now we're off to something else! The public has no time to
digest and assimilate news events and their lessons.
The corporate spin on globalization is eerily cheerful,
despite the fact that the gap between rich and poor is
widening. Barber says government leaders are intimidated by
today's market ideology. No one dares question the
conventional wisdom about free trade. The conventional
wisdom says that globalization is inevitable, and that our
democratic traditions are obsolete.
Barber quotes Felix Rohatyn: "There is a brutal Darwinian
logic to these markets. They are nervous and greedy. They
look for stability...but what they reward is not always our
preferred form of democracy." Capitalism wants to tame
democracy, says Barber, and capitalism does not mind tyranny
as long as it secures "stability."
In the same interview where George W. Bush failed to name
the leaders of four different countries, Bush also said he
thought the coup in Pakistan was a good thing because it
would help bring "stability" to the region. If Bush
recommends tyrant's coups to "bring stability" to other
nations, would he also favour tyrannical oppression for
"stability's" sake in this country?
The message of globalization is that democracies are
old-fashioned and that "tyranny to secure stability" is
bright and shiny new. No matter how much confectioner's
sugar the globalization flacks sprinkle on the message, this
is not good news for the ever-shrinking American
middle-class. It is especially bad news considering the
very rich have used violence and deception to control and
divide the working class throughout this nation's history.
In McWorld, can we still learn from history?
Important lessons from history as recent as the Seattle
demonstrations have been obliterated by the McNews networks.
Network news did not cover the fact that a Seattle
physician reported that the rubber bullets police used on
peaceful demonstrators tore off part of a person's jaw and
smashed the teeth of many nonviolent protesters. Peaceful
demonstrators had tear gas injuries, including damage to
eyes and skin. One Seattle reporter was thrown to the
pavement, handcuffed, and thrown into a van, even though the
correspondent showed credentials. Corporate owned news
networks did not interview the nonviolent protesters who
were injured by "stability" enforcing police.
Like terrorist death squads in third world countries, U. S.
vigilante police sometimes ignore legal formalities and
practice unlawful torture on nonviolent strikers or peaceful
protesters. Folksinger Woodie Guthrie once sang, "Well,
what is a vigilante man? Tell me, what is a vigilante
man?....Would he shoot his brother and sister down?"(1)
Apparently for Seattle police, the answer was yes.
In McWorld, not only is democracy out of date, but labour
concerns are also antiquated. However, for those of us not
living entirely in a McWorld-induced trance, it is useful to
reflect on the way U. S. corporations and certain government
agencies have tried to divide and oppress the working class
at previous moments in history. A close look at
corporations' long-term oppression of the middle class
indicates where unbridled capitalism will take McWorld's
cheerful tyrants in the future.
Corporate and government leaders have long used police and
National Guardsmen and even federal troops to break strikes
and crush progressive movements. The copper miners' strike
of 1892 in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho was broken when the governor
brought in the National Guard, reinforced by federal troops.
Union leaders were fired, scabs were reinstated and six
hundred miners were imprisoned. (That is about the same
number of people arrested in Seattle. Senator-activist Tom
Hayden said that of the 587 arrested in Seattle, virtually
all were nonviolent.)
For a Carnegie Steel workers' strike in 1892, the governor
of Pennsylvania brought in state troops to protect
strikebreakers and crush strike leaders, arresting the
entire Strike Committee.(2) If anyone doubts
corporate/government leaders would use such force to bring
"stability" today, we only have to once again remember
Seattle -- if McWorld will stop spinning long enough to
allow the memory to resurface intact, that is.
In 1885, a labour meeting was held in Chicago's Haymarket
Square. A bomb exploded, wounding sixty-six policemen and
killing seven. Historian Howard Zinn writes, "Some evidence
came out that a man named Rudolph Schnaubelt, supposedly an
anarchist, was actually an agent of the police, an agent
provocateur, hired to throw the bomb and thus enable the
arrest of hundreds, causing the destruction of the
revolutionary leadership in Chicago. But to this day it has
not been discovered who threw the bomb."(3) Seattle's
violent disruptions might also have been instigated by
provocateurs, but even contemplating such a question is
taboo in today's McCulture.
Lack of evidence in the Haymarket incident did not matter.
Police arrested eight "anarchist" leaders. A jury sentenced
them all to death. George Bernard Shaw and other prominent
Americans were outraged because they considered the trials a
railroading. There was a march of 25,000 in Chicago, and
60,000 people signed petitions to Illinois Governor Altgeld,
who later pardoned the three prisoners who had not already
died. Will future McWorld leaders even allow a George
Bernard Shaw to speak or 25,000 to march without shattering
their jaws with rubber bullets?
In more recent history, during the 1960s, the FBI used
surveillance and agents provocateurs to foster division
within protest organizations.(4) Senate hearings in the
1970s (the Church committee hearings) showed that the FBI
worked to discredit and destroy certain civil rights and
women's liberation groups. The Senate report showed that
FBI informants infiltrated leftwing groups, disrupted their
plans, and even encouraged members to kill one another or
tried to destroy their personal lives.(5)
The Church committee report states that the FBI wiretapped
Martin Luther King, Jr., and made a systematic effort to
knock him "off his pedestal and to reduce him completely in
influence."(6) The FBI smeared King, lying about him to
congressmen and university officials. Thirty-four days
before King was to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, he
received an anonymous tape in the mail -- a tape that
recorded King's extramarital affairs. The Senate report
showed that Assistant FBI director William Sullivan wrote
King a letter saying: "King, there is only one thing left
for you to do. You know what it is. You have just 34 days
in which to do it."(7) King understood this to mean
Sullivan was urging him to commit suicide. This is what
tyrants do in order to "stabilize" the disenfranchised.
Corporate/governmental brutality toward nonviolent
protesters is nothing new in this country's history. The
mainstream media's neglect is not unusual either.
Journalist Michael Parenti reveals how the mainstream press
often shows an anti-labour, anti-protester bias. For
example, major newspapers have no "labour" section to go
along with their business section. Strikes and protests are
usually covered from the management or corporate viewpoint.
One study of ABCs "Nightline" found that over a forty-month
period covering 865 programs, guests were overwhelmingly
conservative, white, male, government officials, or
corporate executives. "Only 5 percent represented public
interest groups. Less than 2 percent were labour leaders or
representatives of ethnic minorities."(8) The news blackout
on Seattle was just more of the same from corporate McNews
Benjamin Barber says that the old masters were visible
tyrants. Today's masters are invisible and "sing a siren
song of markets in which the name of liberty is invoked in
every chorus." The new masters tell us that oppression is
liberty, and war is peace, and tyranny is stability. The
"liberty" of McWorld may be good for consumption, says
Barber, but it may not be of much use to civic liberty.
Robber baron Jay Gould once said in reference to a Knights
of Labour Strike, "I can hire one half of the working class
to kill the other half." Gould meant that he was willing to
stir up conflict among workers and encourage violence in
order to oppress average Americans who dared to stand up for
their rights.(9) Gould's mentality might seem outdated, but
the *fruits* of his thinking are not substantially different
from what occurred in Seattle.
Day after day we see cheery, breezy fluff on the McNews
channels. We are fed shimmering portraits of smiling
corporate leaders who assure us globalization is good for
the country. Just beneath the glowing skin, gleaming teeth
and glib snake oil spin of your friendly McWorld salesman
lurks the soul of Jay Gould. Let us watch and see where
trading tyranny for "stability" will take us over the next
few years. Let us not be McMesmerized into forgetfulness.
(1) Bertram Gross, FRIENDLY FASCISM, 1980.
(2) Howard Zinn, A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES, 1980.
(3) Zinn, A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES, 1980
(4) Cathy Perkus, ed., COINTELPRO, The FBI's Secret War on Political
(5) Kathryn S. Olmstead, CHALLENGING THE SECRET GOVERNMENT, 1996.;
(Olmstead's source is: U. S. Senate Select Committee, Intelligence
Activities, vol. 6, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 18 November 1975,
(6) U. S. Senate Select Committee Report., vol. 6, 31.
(7) U. S. Senate Select Committee Report, vol 6, 33
(8) Study by William Hoynes and David Croteau, prepared for Fairness and
Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), February 1989.
(9) Gross, FRIENDLY FASCISM, 1980.
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