Saturday, 3 April 2010

The "freedom" rhetoric of America's reactionary right is a lie

Yesterday, Alex Jones' Prison Planet website carried an article entitled "Feds Prepare To Use Anarchists To Provoke Tea Party Violence." In it, though of course inadvertently, Paul Joseph Watson lays out exactly what the "anti-NWO" / "9-11 Truther" movement is about. It is nothing more than a front to attract genuine radicals to the reactionary insanity of the faux-libertarian, conspiracy-obsessed right.

Over at Property is Theft, I have previously explained The folly of "New World Order" conspiracy theories. In a nutshell;
Elitism, imperialism, and the collusion of the powerful are realities that do not need neatly-packaged and overly simplistic explanations behind them. As with the politics of racial and religious sectarianism, the NWO conspiracies ultimately achieve only one thing; to distract the masses from those truly responsible for the woes of the world and distract organised resistance to the ruling classes with outlandish strawmen.
Hence why anarchists come in for such sustained attack from these paleo-conservative, would-be "radicals." These people cannot abide critiques of authoritarianism which do not simply wish to replace public power with private power.

The source of their scorn in this article is the call to "crash the tea parties" which appeared on Infoshop. In particular, the statement that “if the tea party movement takes over this country they will really hurt poor people by getting rid of social programs like food stamps, unemployment benefits, disability benefits, student aid, free health care, etc,” has provoked ire. According to Watson, this is "completely at odds with the traditional anarchist political doctrine of extremely limited or no government whatsoever."

Needless to say, this is strawman nonsense. Anybody with even a shred of awareness about anarchism will know that it is a fundamentally communist movement, seeking to replace the authoritarian structures of the state and capital with bottom-up worker control of industry and community control of resources. Anarchist communism, public services, and the welfare state deals with the "no government equals no social welfare" fallacy in some depth. We want to get rid of the government, but not in favour of oligarchy and private tyranny. Unfortunately, as I've discussed before, that is the kind of thing the Tea Party Movement is all about.

We are far from out of strawmen. Next out of the box is that anarchists "have regurgitated wholesale the exact same rhetoric that the corporate-owned media" have. In essence, that "anyone who opposes big government (which is what “anarchists” are supposed to do), is a racist and an extremist." This is a falsehood on two counts. First, as already outlined, the only two options are not "big government" and a destructive capitalist free-for-all. Second, the corporate media has not been quick to label the Tea Party as racist or extremist.

In fact, as this Wall Street Journal op-ed illustrates, a lot of mainstream commentators are saying precisely what Watson is.
It is a fact that the tea party is an overwhelmingly older, white and suburban crowd. It is true that Republicans in Congress are almost completely white. And it is also true, according to some black and gay Democrats, that a tea party rally against health-care reform at the Capitol degenerated into ugly scenes in which racial and homophobic epithets were used and spit flew on some members of Congress. There are suspicions that tea party anger boiled over into the spate of personal threats against Democrats who voted for the health-care bill.

That is despicable and deserving of condemnation. And the leaders of the tea party movement have to be careful about rhetoric that feeds fringe, militia-type anger that leads to violence.

Yet opposition to health-care reform from the tea party is not based on racism but self-interest. The older, whiter segment of the American demographic was at the heart of opposition to the president's health-care proposal because they feared cuts in their Medicare benefits or taxes hikes eroding their income.

Tea party activists are surprisingly mainstream when it comes to their grievances about politics. They fit right in with most American voters who tell pollsters the country has been headed in the wrong direction under both Presidents Bush and Obama. A Pew poll in early March found 71% of Americans "dissatisfied with the way things are going in the country today." Republicans and Democrats in Congress have low ratings —23% and 31% approval respectively, according to Pew.

A Fox poll in February found that 59% say they don't trust the federal government. A CNN poll the same month reported results that suggest 56% are well beyond mere mistrust: They agree that the federal government is "so large and powerful that it poses an immediate threat to rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens."

Tea party style discontent appears also to be an accurate representation of voter unhappiness—across political and racial lines—with banks and financial institutions. Pew reports finding 48% saying they are "angry" over the government bailout for institutions that "made poor financial decisions." Overall, Pew found 68% of Americans view these big-money institutions unfavorably.

When Pew asked Americans in February about the tea party they found 33% had a favorable opinion and 25% an unfavorable view. A large number of respondents didn't rate the tea party or had never heard of them.

The tea party is not the problem. Whether you like them or not they do seem to have captured the political angst in the electorate, without regard to skin color.
True to Chomsky's propaganda model, there is much complaint of an anti-Tea Party bias but little evidence of it at work. The flak machines are running overtime to paint the picture of a movement attacked on all sides whilst in reality it enjoys the partisan support of Republicans. In fact the Tea Party is, in itself, an organ of flak. It exists to push even further in favour of big business and against the poor and working class, the extreme hawks at one end of the mainstream political spectrum chiding the doves for their perceived excesses. Whilst, really, Obama's "socialism" is nothing more than tokenism, offering the perception of improved social justice whilst maintaining the status quo.

After the transparent strawman arguments, Watson moves onto ad hominem. He cites Kurt Nimmo, from Prison Planet's sister site Infowars, when saying that "these people are not anarchists at all, they are statists, teenage socialist punks who like to call themselves “workers” but a good portion of whom have probably never worked a day in their life." As such, "they make for perfect puppets through which the establishment can manipulate to demonize its real political adversaries" and "the latter half of April represents the most dangerous time period for when we can expect violence to be staged or provocateured which will instantly be blamed on tea partiers, libertarians and constitutionalists."

It takes less than an instant to see through this vaccuous tripe. Who will "blame" the Tea Party for the acts of anarchists? What proof is there that anarchists will "stage" anything? What proof, for that matter, of the piss-poor stereotype of anarchists offered as some form of insightful wisdom?

There is none. The idea that "anarchist groups have been infiltrated and steered by authorities to commit mayhem and violence in order to justify a crackdown on free speech and the right to assemble" is founded on nothing. The example they cite, of the undercover cops at the G20 protest in Pittsburgh, proves nothing. They were quickly outed and hardly representative of all those who attended in masks as a black bloc. As one commenter noted, "the Black Bloc isn’t some stupid rebellious youngster[s]" and "when they sense there are infiltrators they will confront them as a group. They know who is who and who belongs with them. Any time there is a lone quiet guy trailing the group then all of the sudden gets violent, people aren’t stupid to this divide and conquer technique."

Also worthy of note is another commenter's observation that "the reason the Black Bloc wears masks is because when they were unmasked the police would hunt down their families and threaten them." We have seen dramatic evidence of police violence against protesters, as well as the fact that they film such "domestic extremists." And that is here in Britain, where the Terrorism Act is nowhere near as all-pervasive as the USA PATRIOT Act.

Ultimately, then, what we find is Prison Planet performing a half-arsed character assasination of anarchism, defending the reactionary politics of the "libertarian" right. The statement that "the leadership of the black bloc has been completely usurped by the authorities and anyone who still professes to be a member of the group is either supremely naive or completely stupid" only demonstrates its absurdity. Not only is anarchist organisation leaderless, but there is no anarchist group called "the black bloc." It is a generic term for anarchist protesters, based on their appearance.

Then there is the urge that protesters "turn the other cheek." I have previously explained in depth Why pacifism is morally indefensible. Here, I want to challenge the notion that "the establishment hates credible, peaceful political rallies that stick to the message."

This is as much bullshit as the idea that negotiating with the police to be herded into a "free speech pen" where you are hidden from sight and earshot is more effective than taking over the streets en masse. Direct action works, as virtually every movement against injustice through history has demonstrated. If we want to dismantle a system built around the needs of the ruling class at the expense of the workers, we need to build towards a mass uprising. It is only if we want a moderate movement, lobbying for politics to shift from one end to the other of the acceptable spectrum, that we should ensure we stay "on message." Yes, there is such a thing as pointless or counterproductive action, and agent provocateurs should be outed. But in no way does utterly surrendering radical and militant methods follow from this.

In building towards genuine resistance, it is vital that our energies aren't diverted harmlessly into the politics of reaction. The "coalition of conservatives, anti-Semites, fascists, libertarians, racists, constitutionalists, militia men, gun freaks, homophobes, Ron Paul supporters, Alex Jones conspiracy types and American flag wavers" is not our friend. They are allied with profit and power and they must be opposed.