In the fading days of his chaotic presidency, the 25th amendment threat and impeachment moves against Donald Trump seem like poetic justice for a craven narcissist who not only refused to accept election defeat but played his political base to the very last as a pitchfork mob.
Yet while media reports breathlessly covered the ‘spectacle of insurrection’, with journalists aghast at the storming of America’s ‘hallowed house of democracy’, the much more central and ignored story here has been the cynical weaponising of the Capitol Hill ‘coup’.
Following House leader Nancy Pelosi, most ‘mainstream’ media bewailed the invasion of Congress as an assault on the very ideals of the Republic.
Ashen-faced liberal Anne Applebaum lamented that American democracy had been “badly damaged,” with “a loss of prestige, status and influence.”
Twitter’s own eventual removal of Trump’s account was cheered to the liberal rafters.
And with this has come a wider play to liberal leftist outrage and authoritarian responses.
The seduction of such voices has been a spectacle to observe, a kind of political coup in itself.
Silicon Valley oligarchs’ longstanding endorsement and financial support for the Democratic Party already weighs heavily here.
But big-tech, with its state accomplices and liberal authoritarian permissions, has now used the muting of a madman to grant itself even greater Orwellian powers to close down any part of the public square it chooses.
Press TV, with it’s four million followers, is the latest ‘suspect’ to be targeted without warning by Facebook.
And you can be sure that, with the now raised approvals of liberal centrists, the heaviest axe will continue to fall on the ‘awkward’ left and selected foreign enemies.
The real consequence of Capitol Hill is less about the ‘insurrection’ of an unwieldy mob than a consolidation of liberal authoritarian power.
For Glenn Greenwald:
“That is because the dominant strain of American liberalism is not economic socialism but political authoritarianism. Liberals now want to use the force of corporate power to silence those with different ideologies. They are eager for tech monopolies not just to ban accounts they dislike but to remove entire platforms from the internet. They want to imprison people they believe helped their party lose elections, such as Julian Assange, even if it means creating precedents to criminalize journalism.”
Alarm, he notes, has even been expressed by other world leaders:
“German Chancellor Angela Merkel, various French ministers, and especially Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador all denounced the banning of Trump and other acts of censorship by tech monopolies on the ground that they were anointing themselves “a world media power.””
As Greenwald also shows, in resisting anti-trust penalties and providing the convenient pretext for eliminating a rising commercial competitor, liberal cheering for an authoritarian online clampdown was the very excuse giant tech monopolies Apple, Google and Amazon needed to close down the alternative chat platform and app, Parler.
Of course, this censorship has been steadily building. For example, notes Greenwald, since 2016:
“Facebook has been on a censorship rampage against Palestinian activists who protest the decades-long, illegal Israeli occupation, all directed and determined by Israeli officials.”
But the move on Trump has taken the issue of arbitrary removals to a whole new and incendiary level.
Twitter founder Jack Dorsey has acknowledged that his firm’s decision to ban Trump permanently has set a “dangerous [but necessary] precedent”, while hoping for a new climate of healing and civil discourse.
Yet this looks more like damage limitation and commercial appeasement than any true concern over the enormous power such corporations now hold.
Liberal authoritarian power grab
The exploiting of Trump’s provocative conduct has now given this big-tech/liberal authoritarian alignment even greater impetus.
And with this is coming an extended Patriot Act and domestic set of War on Terror enforcements.
Jonathan Cook spells out the wider implications:
“In this case, however, the ones deciding which users get to speak and which are banned are the globe-spanning tech corporations, the wealthiest companies in human history. Facebook and Twitter have justified banning Trump, and anyone else, on the grounds that he violated vague business “terms of service” – the small print on agreement forms we all sign before being allowed access to their platforms. But barring users from the chief means of communication in a modern, digitised world cannot be defended simply on commercial or business grounds, especially when those firms have been allowed to develop their respective monopolies by our governments.”
Those leftists urging on corporate big-tech are, thus, doing progressives and alternative media no long-term favours.
Pushed on by Biden’s incoming neoliberal administration, already closely aligned with the Silicon giants as they manoeuvre to avoid anti-monopoly break ups, curbs on free speech won’t end with Trump.
The purging of left and dissenting platforms will now intensify, all underwritten by new extended ‘terms of service’.
Nor is this even just about the key issue of free speech. It’s about the deepening sovereignty of corporate-political speech and its unprecedented ability to cancel others’ speech.
False calls to arms
Likewise, those liberals shouting for harsher police powers against the Capitol Hill ‘insurrectionists’ are only inviting further War on Terror restrictions on left mobilisation and expression.
Anyone on the left who thinks the state will use these powers mainly against the far-right needs a sharp reminder of how more selectively it has already targeted Black Lives Matter, Antifa and other leftist forces to such brutal effect.
Any new powers accruing to the Biden administration will be utilised just as ruthlessly.
And those taking satisfaction at the shooting of a Trump supporter inside the Congress building should also be aware that they are not only lauding extrajudicial killing, police powers and gun law, but giving succour to a politics of zero-sum violence.
Just resistance to oppression, state violence and reactionary forces may often turn into armed action. But the wishful expression of violence and killing carries no moral value and promises no just ends. Beware, deeply, the clarion calls of ‘vanguard leftists’ shouting for ‘against the wall’ solutions in the name of ‘smashing fascism’.
The need to challenge hate-filled white supremacists and fascist elements is abundantly clear. But that won’t be advanced by cheering on either more state or civil violence.
Hype on the Hill
The main enemies of peace and justice are resident within Capitol Hill, not outside it.
It’s precisely from within these ‘shining chambers of democracy’ that directives are being rubber-stamped for insurrections and coups against other parliaments and peoples around the globe.
“The US is a world leader in the coup business. No other country has devoted such resources and committed so much effort in perfecting the art and science of regime change.”
One of Mike Pompeo’s last acts has been to put Yemen’s Houthi insurgents on a terror list, at the behest of terror state Saudi Arabia. Again, this was:
“not a perverse performance in Trump’s frantic end game but rather an exercise entirely consistent with the foreign policy followed by every US administration over decades.”
It’s also from within the Capitol’s ‘representative’ halls of power that the American people have been denied the rights to medicare and the other basics of human existence. And that includes Trump supporters.
The 74 million who voted for Trump aren’t all KKK clones, QAnoners and proto-fascists. A vast part of this base carry legitimate grievances against a neoliberal-driven, Wall Street-supporting liberal/Dem class responsible for the 2008 economic calamity, big bank bailouts, mass austerity, social insecurity and foreign warmongering.
Beyond all the media hype and liberal disdain, this is not an undifferentiated electoral mass. Nor, for all its flag-waving, muscular ugliness, was this a force ready or able to mount a major militarised putsch, as many amongst the Capitol Hill ‘insurrection’ showed.
The limited police presence, apparent collusion, and ease with which the Trump mob entered the building, compared with the mass-militarised assaults on peaceful
progressive gatherings, certainly tells us all we need to know about the priority responses of the US ‘security’ state.
But this doesn’t render the attack on the Capitol building a coup or an insurrection in any meaningful sense, nor can it all easily be labelled ’terrorism’, even if some may well be prosecuted as such under the Pence-devised Patriot Act:
“One has to separate out those few who appeared ready to arrest members of Congress or use pipe bombs, from the vast majority of protestors who entered the Capitol. Smearing them all as “extremists” and even worse as “terrorists” is inflammatory. It is leading to a wholesale reaction that is further deepening the crisis.”
Yet how readily Biden, Pelosi, Obama, the Clintons and this whole sanctimonious elite are using the Capitol event and Mad Orange Man moment to shroud their own crimes and extremities.
How readily a service liberal media fete them as figures of normality and stability.
How easily they even invoke the Butcher of Baghdad, George W Bush, as an ‘exemplary’ ex-office bearer, rolled out to deify the ‘shining Hill’ and plead for an ‘orderly transition’.
The posturing is as shameless as anything snake-oil salesman Trump could muster:
“Such Democratic hypocrisy was underscored on 60 Minutes Sunday, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Trump “deranged, unhinged, and dangerous.” But is he any more “deranged, unhinged, and dangerous” than Democrats who joined Republicans to vote in 2003 to invade and occupy a nation that posed no threat to the United States?”
Unlike what may yet face Trump after his departure, none of their crimes of office – Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and so much more – will ever be treated as prosecutable or post-impeachable offences.
Nor, recall, did Twitter think to pull down Trump’s account for inciting war against Iran, or for bombing Syria – an action for which he was duly hailed by liberals as a ‘true president’.
Warmongering liberal interventionism, it seems, is not only tolerated as online chat, but rendered noble.
A Hill too far
Rather than his perverse stream of tweets these past four years, Trump is now paying the price for his much more awkward bluster on Capitol Hill.
Trump’s real crime in the eyes of the establishment was to undermine the fiction of US ‘decency and stability’ in pursuit of his own personal preservation.
The US ruling elite at large are now united in punishing him for violating that most sacred notion, the confected aura of America as a ‘beacon of democracy’ for the world.
This is the illusion that must always be protected, alongside the truth that must remain hidden, that can’t be aired in corporate newsrooms or talking-head studios: that America isn’t in any meaningful sense a democracy at all. It’s an oligarchy.
And not only has Trump failed to uphold the ‘noble Hill’ and its ‘bastion’ mythology, his desperate grasping for power has ‘tainted’ it with neo-fascist imagery for all the world to see.
Yet this is a system of elite control that has been veering towards political-corporate fascism long before Trump. His is but a more naked and openly vulgar expression of it.
Divisions, ‘healing’ and control
Much has been made of the ‘divisions’ Trump has fuelled across American society. And there’s little doubt that he has played every calculating, self-serving card in whipping up fear and hatred.
Yet the resulting uproar and fallout crises has also served to open up the real chasms of economic wealth, class division and racial injustice across America.
And this upheaval worries the ruling class much more.
The refrain that ‘America is a divided society’ is a crucial system-sustaining narrative in itself.
It preserves the vital notion that it’s the people themselves who are the problem, unable to unite and heal, not the elite-serving system which feeds economic division, political polarisation and social unrest.
This has all long been safely locked down by a phoney politics of ‘party choices’. And while Trump’s caustic theatre has helped solidify those party divisions, the very intensity of his base-playing has threatened to tear the whole fragile illusion of ‘exemplar democr
It’s in this more system-disrupting sense that Trump has become a most dangerous liability, spooking the ruling order by over-extending those divisions and fanning more threatening mass mobilisations.
Biden’s entrance to office will, thus, come with all the standard rhetoric of ‘healing the divide’.
Likewise, the Democrats’ late impeachment move is an attempt to prop-up and prettify its battered image, an ongoing effort to avert attention from its own mass crimes and failings.
Same system up on the Hill
As Trump exits the political stage, whether through coercion or consent, any moment of relief should be tempered by these more system-searching thoughts.
Trump was the Frankenstein creation of a rampant neoliberal, deeply undemocratic, failed state, a symptom of this much more insidious system.
The Clinton/Obama Dem class must still answer for the resultant political disenchantment that paved the way for Trump the ‘outlier’.
Trump has not only been a wrecker of lives and social-serving institutions, but, more worryingly for the corporate liberal establishment, a volatile force which has ruptured the very illusion of the ‘democratic order’ on which that continuous power depends.
Rather than the ‘coup’ on Capitol Hill, his presiding over the great Covid calamity alone should be grounds for high prosecution.
Yet the mass death count Trump has overseen is but one key illustration of a wider corporate-first, business-as-usual ‘reality’ that has relegated human life to power-serving, transactional politics.
Beyond promised stimulus packages and other token interventions, that won’t change in any fundamental way under Biden or any other set of corporate-serving officers.
What this incoming administration has gained, however, is even greater authoritarian scope for closing down all difficult and dissenting voices, not just residual Trumpists.
As with Obama, this supposed ‘return to decency’ politics is really just another re-branding of the same oligarchic system, a continuation of the same core priorities, peddled promises and political failures, offering no hope of meaningful change.
That will take mass rejection of all this illusion and deceit, a true and peaceful people’s insurrection against the real political and corporate forces running the show up on ‘shining Capitol Hill’.
Please see this devastating assessment from Chris Hedges, setting out the real contextual issues behind Trump and his base, the events on Capitol Hill, the dangers of big-tech controls over free speech, the betrayals of a corporate-serving Democratic Party and the rise of liberal authoritarianism. Truly educational.