Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Shock Doctrine in Wisconsin (and America)

It's hard to keep up with all the news on Wisconsin, and the situation is ongoing. Bigger liberal blogs are doing a fantastic job covering it all. However, this Naomi Klein segment is well worth watching, especially for anyone not familiar with the concept of the shock doctrine:

Heather at C&L writes:

The Nation's Chris Hayes laid out very plainly why the protests in Wisconsin matter. This move by Gov. Scott Walker is one of a series of power grabs by Republicans with the intent of achieving some of their long time goals; destroying unions and the middle class and getting rid of our public education system.

Chris' fellow contributor to The Nation, Naomi Klein discussed how what Walker doing is a classic example of the Shock Doctrine, where politicians create a crisis and then using that crisis as an excuse to push through horribly unpopular economic policies. And as Hayes and Klein both explained, what ends up happening in Wisconsin is not only going to have local implications, but national as well.

Along with conservatives seeking to destroy unions, the middle class and public education, don't forget public libraries and public media! Nick Gillepsie, of the Koch-funded publication/website Reason, argued earlier this year that libraries should be privatized because librarians are lazy and overpaid, and public libraries serve the elite. These claims would come as great surprise to anyone who knows anything whatsoever about public libraries. In fact, especially for the poor and lower middle class, public libraries are the primary (if not only) source for information and internet access. And when other social services shut down in major cities, the homeless turn to public libraries. None of this is exactly a secret.

Conservatives have attacked public broadcasting for decades, but they've ramped up their assault on NPR especially in the past several months. The recent Ron Schiller incident is just the latest excuse. Back in February, NPR show To the Point looked at the NPR funding issue. One of host Warren Olney's guests was Adam Thierer, of the Koch-funded Mercatus Center at George Mason University, who argued that NPR should receive no government funding (and he wasn't the biggest wanker on the show). To the Point looked at the NPR funding issue again on 3/10/11, and this time, one of the guests was David Boaz, executive vice president on the Cato Institute, which was founded, and continues to be funded by... the Koch brothers. Boaz argued against funding for NPR as well, and also against the certainty of climate change and against the regulation of businesses (the Kochs are billionaire oil men). Gillepsie's consistently wrong or disingenuous, and always smug, and Boaz is pretty smarmy too, while Thierer has an amiable manner. Perhaps all of them truly believe what they're saying. However, they're furthering the Koch's plutocratic agenda, which means attacking absolutely everything related to the commons and the social contract, and the very idea that the government should do anything for the people. In this case, that also entails destroying all public institutions that will inform the citizenry.

This is a part of the long game by conservatives in America. It includes, as Digby and others have noted, de-funding everything and everyone who might help the Democratic Party or liberal causes, including disenfranchising young, college voters, because they tend to vote liberal. And beyond the scorched earth approach to partisanship, which is bad enough, this long game is anti-democracy, pro-plutocracy and pro-feudalism.

The fight in Wisconsin is a microcosm of the battle of our age, the attack of the plutocrats. It even has the most notorious of American plutocrats, the Koch brothers, at its center. However, the nature of this attack on the middle class, the push to steal collective bargaining rights from public employees, is extremely important – and should be familiar.

One of the defining features of movement conservatism is its extreme, destructive nature. In the chart above, revamped from an old post ("The Chart That Explains It All") I labeled it "authoritarian conservatism," but it could also be called "plutocracy" or "neo-feudalism." While liberals, independents and reasonable, moderate conservatives have their differences, they all believe in some sort of social contract, objective principles, some sort of fair, sustainable system and responsible governance. They may jockey for power within that system, and liberals in particular fight to (in their eyes) improve the system and make it more fair. They may even seek sweeping changes of, say, financial regulation of Wall Street. However, there are some foundational things, such as civil rights and due process, they do not attack and instead defend.

Movement conservatives, despite some variety in their specific obsessions, do not think this way. The goal is power, acquiring it, holding it, and wielding it with impunity and without consequence. When it comes to a system, they will burn it all down, eagerly. In most fights, they don't just seek to win, they seek to crush their perceived enemies permanently. In particular, they attack the very ability of their opponents to fight back, negotiate, and challenge their will. They don't just want to win the game, they want to rig it further so that no one else can ever compete ever again. It should be obvious by now, but Scott Walker and most of the Wisconsin Republicans simply do not care about either good policy or the will of the people – they're serving the interests of the Kochs and their ilk. And while the demonstrations in Madison and around the country are extremely impressive and inspiring, it's important to remember that the William F. Buckleys and Koch brothers of the world, never, ever stop. Even if they lose a skirmish, they'll be back, and they'll keep funding a plutocratic agenda that benefits themselves at the expense of the country. Fights like those in Wisconsin are absolutely essential, but the Kochs and other right-wingers consistently set the framework for discussion and the terms of battle. That results in liberals, independents and moderate conservatives getting tied up fighting purely defensive battles for core values and institutions that never should have needed defending in the first place. The next step is for all Americans who believe in that social contract - and a government of the people, by the people, for the people - to recognize the nature of this threat and start putting the plutocrats on the defensive.


Cirze said...

Fantastic post, Bat.

Great explication of the inexplicable.

Rock on!


tata said...

The funny little wobbly bit I can't figure out is why the Democratic Party isn't in a dead panic. The muckety-mucks up top have to know Citizens United pulled the trapdoor string. Is it possible the party doesn't realize that if unions go down the party can't survive?

The Chamber of Commerce isn't going to pat the DNC on its figurative back and coo, "Well, you tried."

Comrade PhysioProf said...

Tata's question is one I have been wondering about myself. I suspect that the answer lies in part in the fact that the most powerful people in the Democratic Party will personally end up wealthy coddled princes regardless of the demise of the Party itself, and so they do (or, at least, permit) the bidding of those who will be paying the bills in the wealthy coddled prince dotage.