Zombie Politics and Culture in the Age of Casino Capitalism by Henry A. Giroux (2011)
Though the whole zombie bit grows old, this slim volume expresses my views on the current state of affairs only now we are worse off post 2016 election. This is a MUST READ BOOK!
I wrote about another of his books that was amazing too, The Violence of Organized Forgetting.
The author writes for Truth-out so his thoughts subsequent to this book are also available online at www.truth-out.org here are a few links I picked up on a Google search for “henry giroux” 2016 election:
Anti-politics and the Plague of Disorientation: Welcome to the Age of Donald Trump
This one begins with a great quote:
“Ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.”
— James Baldwin
The Authoritarian Politics of Resentment in Trump’s America (November 13, 2016) Here’s the opening paragraph to it (LOVE his use of language!):
In the face of a putrid and poisonous election cycle that ended with Trump’s presidential victory, liberals and conservatives are quick to argue that Americans have fallen prey to a culture of incivility.
Chapter 5: Market-Driven Hysteria and the Politics of Death
If we take seriously the ideology, arguments, and values now emanating from the right wing of the Republican Party, there is no room in the United States for a democracy in which the obligations of citizenship, compassion, and collective security outweigh the demands of what might be called TOTALIZING MARKET-DRIVEN society, that is, a society that is utterly deregulated, privatize, commodified, and largely CONTROLLED by the ULTRA-RICH and a handful of mega-corporations. In such a society, there is a shift in power from government to markets and the emergence of a more intensified political economy organized around three principal concerns: deregulated markets, commodification, and disposability. In spite of the current FAILURE of this system, right-wing Republicans and their allies are more than willing to embrace a system that erases all vestiges of the public good, turning citizens into consumers, while privatizing and commodifying EVERY ASPECT OF THE SOCIAL ORDER — all the while threatening the lives, health, and livelihoods of millions of working-class and middle-class people.
If we listen to shock jocks on right-wing talk radio and an increasing number of their ilk in other media-driven spheres, casino capitalism is not only sexy, it provides an argument against the very notion of politics itself and the power of the government to INTERVENE AND PROTECT ITS CITIZENS from the ravages of nature, corrupt institutions, and an unregulated market. In this discourse, largely buttressed through an appeal to FEAR and the use of OUTRIGHT LIES, free-market capitalism assumes an almost BIBLICAL status as an argument against the power of government to PROTECT ITS CITIZENS from misfortune and the random blows of fate by providing the MOST BASIC RIGHTS and levels of COLLECTIVE security and protection. Politics in this scenario is left to the fate of MARKETS and the FINANCIAL hyper-dead, while everyone else has to look out for themselves, BEREFT of any SOCIAL PROTECTIONS or collective help from broader social spheres.
Before he died, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt advocated precisely for such rights, which hi called a “second bill of rights,” and which included the right “of every family to a decent home. The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health. The right to adequate protection from the ECONOMIC FEARS of old age, sickness, accident and unemployment. The right to a good education.” (fn 1) That is, those social and economic rights that provide a SECURE FOUNDATION for people to live with dignity and be FREE to become critical and engaged citizen, capable of both expanding their own sense of agency and freedom while being able to work with others to fulfill the demands of an aspiring democracy.
But the TRUNCATED NOTION of freedom espoused by the RIGHT-WING extremists of casino capitalism, DEMOCRACY IS A DEFICIT, if not a pathology, and freedom is reduced to the narrow logic of an almost RABID FOCUS ON SELF-INTEREST. As I pointed out in the Introduction, this is a truncated version of freedom, defined largely as a freedom FROM CONSTRAINT — a freedom which when not properly exercised or balance loses its connection to those obligations that tie people to values, issues, and institutions that affirm “the existence of a COMMON GOOD or a PUBLIC PURPOSE.” (fn 2) . . . This type of depoliticizing inward thinking, with its disavowal of of the OBLIGATIONS of SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY and its outright DISDAIN for those who are disadvantaged by virtue of being poor, young or elderly, does more than fuel the harsh, militarized, and hyper-masculine logic of REALITY TELEVISION and EXTREME SPORTS. It also elevates DEATH over life, SELFISHNESS over compassion, and ECONOMICS over politics. But more so, it produces a kind of dysfunctional silence in the culture in the face of MASSIVE HARDSHIP and SUFFERING, wiping out society’s collective memories of MORAL DECENCY.
There is more than MORAL INDIFFERENCE and political cynicism at work here. There is also a culture in which there is not much room for IDEALS, a culture that now considers WELFARE A PATHOLOGY, and responsibility solely a privatized and individual matter. Under this form of zombie politics and mode of casino capitalism, people become invested in their own survival, NARROWLY FOCUSED on their OWN INTERESTS, all the while confirming their regression into a [discredited] Social Darwinism echoed daily on realty TV. This is a politics of disinvestment in public life, democracy, and the common good. Hence, it is not surprising that we hear nothing from the faux populists Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly and other cheerleaders for an UNCHECKED CAPITALISM about a MARKET-DRIVEN LANDSCAPE filled with desolate communities, GUTTED PUBLIC SERVICES, and weakened labor unions. Nor do they say anything about a free-market system that in its GREED, CRUELTY, CORRUPTION, and INIQUITOUS power relations creates the conditions responsible for 40 MILLION IMPOVERISHED people (many living in their cars or the ever-growing tent cities), and 46 MILLION Americans, until recently, living without HEALTH INSURANCE — one result of which, according to a Harvard University study, has been the needless deaths of 45,000 people EVERY YEAR. (fn 4) . . .What do they have to say about a DEREGULATED MARKET SYSTEM with its corrupt financial institutions shipping JOBS ABROAD, swindling people out of their HOMES, and gutting the manufacturing base of U.S. industry? What do they have to say about a political system largely controlled by corporate lobbyists? Or insurance companies that pay employees bonuses when they maintain a high level of rejections for procedures that can save people’s lives. Not much. All they [right winger cheerleaders] se amid this growing landscape of HUMAN SUFFERING and DESPAIR is the [false] specter of socialism, which amounts to ANY GOVERNMENT-SPONSORED PROGRAM designed to offer collective insurance in the face of misfortune and PROMOTE THE PUBLIC GOOD.
For many conservatives and right-wing extremists [redundant], a market-driven society represents more than a tirade against “big government.” It constitutes a new kind of politics that PRIVILEGES EXCHANGE VALUES and QUICK PROFITS over ALL non-commodified values, resists all forms of government INTERVENTION (except when it benefits the rich and powerful and the defense industry), celebrates EXCESSIVE individualism, and consolidates the power of THE RICH along with powerful corporations — currently coded as mammoth financial institutions such as the insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and big bans. Moreover, the ability of this previously devalued market-driven system to endlessly come back to life is truly astonishing. How can the Dick Armeys of the world be featured in The New York Times as if their ideology and ruthlessness is worthy of a major new story? How is it that an endless number of ex and current politicians who are wedded at the hip to corporate interests can be taken seriously as spokespeople for the larger public?
Basically, the author covers and speaks so well of the contemptuousness of the right-wingers hatred of all people but the rich to whom they serve as lapdogs. Unfortunately, the right-wingers are only the most blatant hypocrites among the mass that is Congress and the White House. I reserve special contempt for the pre-dead Scalia court as well, who never saw a court case he couldn’t rule against the common good and for his own personal beliefs (Catholic) and (conservative extremist).
The fact that, conspiracy possibilities aside, enough people were fools by watching and believing Faux news et al, actually proves that the public school system is broken. With willful ignorance and completely brainwashed, too many millions made the choice for #45 and the horror has just begun. One pathetic such man, who claimed to have voted democratic ticket before for presidents went for he-who-shall-not-be-named. On the Chris Hayes program featuring Bernie Sanders with such voters, this poor man explained that he didn’t believe the wild claims of 45 and thought it was all talk. He thought (obviously could NOT have been paying actual attention during all of Obama’s tenure) that CONGRESS, of all things, would NOT ALLOW #45 to act on his extremist agenda.
The Republicans, now in control of everything on so many levels, are having fun passing vicious and devastating bills at such a pace that it is hard to keep up with them. Hell, they don’t even know what they’re doing, and neither does 45 as is evidenced by his inability to read the executive orders he signs. He has basically delegated the presidency out to whomever wants to stick something in front of him to sign. The busy little beavers in Congress who refused to do shit for eight years are now hustling and bustling as if someone will lock the candy door shop on them soon so they have to take away all the goodies before they get shut out.
Perhaps the most appalling thing that the poor fellow thought wouldn’t happen is the massive “reorganization” of the “executive branch” of government. What that was going to mean was made clear by the Heritage Foundation picks for the cabinet. Basically, anyone who hated anything about any given department that helped citizens or protected them or the environment were going to be put in charge just to make sure the department was demolished.
Kakistocracy is the new word I learned that describes our new government. The Republican majority in both houses and the cabinet of deplorables are clearly a bunch of unscrupulous, least qualified, and incompetent bunch of billionaires with zero government experience. There needs to be a new word though that goes beyond this mere corruption and stupidity because, unlike a general group of thuggish goons, this group manifests a malevolence that should not be possible in a country founded on Enlightenment values.
Money changes everything. Our “public servants” have sold us out for decades and done so with self-righteous preaching about the MORAL necessity of hard (wage) work for a pittance. Combined with the IRS tax code that gives the corporate “people” more constitutional rights than actual people have, we are now tipped, perhaps, to the point of no return. Between all the climate change deniers, the elimination of all scientific research (lest their bubble world be popped by actual reality), the elimination of the arts, public schools, and so much more — though they will have to pry my public library from my cold dead hand — there will be little left for people to do but work or die. Kiss minimum wage goodbye. Kiss any provisions for daycare farewell. Any dream you had of actually being able to “retire” is officially gone, but it’s okay because without medical care you are going to be bankrupt and die anyway.
The people in office that are supposed to be looking out for our interests all have a philosophy that their duty is, in fact, NOT TO THE CITIZENS. They do not believe government should have a role at all in any aspect of people’s lives apart from wage slaves to pay taxes to buy weapons to kill other people (or soon enough with militarized police, ourselves).
Wait, I can’t say “no role” since they definitely want to be all up in my lady parts and the lady parts of every woman in America. Between calls for sterilization of women with needy families, and bemoaning the fact that our civilization will fall because white women aren’t having enough babies, and the hundreds of unconstitutional laws that are left standing because they are being produced with such fury with cookie cutter ALEC templates that there aren’t enough lawyers in the world to take them on as they pop up in all 50 states by the dozens.
Having the stupid (like so many entrenched aspects of LAW versus JUSTICE) rules about having to have a plaintiff with “standing” that can spend her life for years drowning in public attacks and endless protracted court proceedings before judges appointed by Jesus Freak W packing the benches, to ultimately end up at a court as prejudicial as the soon to be SCALIA 2.0 based on the Hobby Lobby bastard nominee picked by, of course, the Heritage Foundation. The Republicans are writing the rules in Congress and in the majority of state legislators as well as governorships, and their ideology is as unwavering as it is corrupt, evil, and wrong.
Homo Economicus must not be allowed to rule the epoch. The sad part is that I have been listening to some history of civilizations and it is extraordinarily depressing. The constant presence of slaves, sex slaves (aka wives), and gruesome and brutal and callous mass murder on the scale of which WWII probably tops the list, but not for want of older tyrants’ best efforts. Tales of eastern emperors were unfamiliar to me. There were probably some good ones, but they are not featured in this telling.
That teacher (one of the Great Courses series of books on CD) mentioned one fellow who killed 80,000 soldiers of an opposing little kingdom just because he could, basically. Others killed millions; I believe one of these, actually many of them, used religion to justify his slaughter on other kingdoms with different gods. He even claimed that the other gods worshiped HIS god, and therefore, all those other kingdoms had to submit to his authority. Religions of all sorts ultimately seemed to be used primarily to justify mass murder and plunder. The old MIGHT MAKES RIGHT, with swords and guns and now drones.
What is important to recognize in light of these violent tendencies in the culture is Hannah Arendt’s prescient warning that elements of totalitarianism continue to be with us and that rather than being relegated to the dustbin of history, the “still existing elements of totalitarianism would be more likely to crystallize into new forms.” (fn 3) These tendencies have been around for the last twenty years in the form of MILITARISM, RELIGIOUS FUNDAMENTALISM, a RABID ECONOMIC DARWINISM, and a GROWING VIOLENCE against the poor, immigrants, dissenters, and others marginalized because of their age, gender, race, ethnicity, and color.
I am appalled at the massive increase of the use of swastikas spray painted on anything Jewish. Most those ignorant fools wouldn’t know a Jewish person walking down the street. They are so stupid they can’t even pick some other group to hate, they have to be cheap co-opters of the vile Nazi’s who at least had a Hitler et al government-directed rationalization to target the Jews. Our white supremacists don’t have any basis whatsoever to be hostile to the Jewish people for any reason, ideological or otherwise. Monkey see, monkey do is the only reason they are attacking any place remotely identifiable as Jewish.
In some ways, this makes their hatred even more terrifying, as I am sad to have to acknowledge. There is no reasoning with pointless blind hatred.
Similarly, the shooting of a Sikh man wearing a turban is a double tragedy because some too-stupid-to-live piece of shit decided that he was justified in killing a man because he wore a turban that clearly meant something anti-white, anti-christian. What would Jesus do? These fundies don’t seem to grasp any of the entire concept of the teachings of their religious icon.
This is a movement of older white Americans who are generally uninformed politically, eager to eliminate most government agencies, and harbor an acute disdain for debate, thoughtfulness, and dialogue. There is a chilling similarity between their hatred of government and McVeigh‘s claim that “I reached the decision to go on the offensive — to put a check on government abuse of power.” (fn 7) In owe quest, they hate and even view as pathology any vestige of democratic governance, politics, and representation. They are part of a fringe element within the GOP that has moved increasingly from the margins to the center of power. (fn 8) They [Tea Party types] have already played a prominent role in electing Scott Brown from Massachusetts [published 2011 remember] to the U.S. Senate, enabled Rand Paul, a card-carrying Tea Party founder, to win the Kentucky Republican senatorial primary, and successfully ran a number of candidates for public office.
And now we know they formed a secret cabal of 40 in the House of Representatives that can, when loyal to their dogma — and irrational and unquestioning loyalty to their leaders is the dominant characteristic of them all — STOP ANY ACTION by the Congress of the United States. They do NOT have the COMMON GOOD in mind when they do so. They are driven by a fierce belief in their own righteousness and world view that brooks no actual facts or reality to intrude on their zealotry. Where the Senate thwarted so much with the rigor of absolute loyalty to hold back support from anything Obama, even to the extent of refusing to have a hearing on the Supreme Court nominee AT ALL until the “new president” was in place [almost as if they knew it wasn’t going to be Hillary?] that was and remains as pure TREASON in my opinion.
The House cabal, with the Orwellian NewSpeak name of the “Freedom Caucus,” and their House rules, thwart any legislation — no matter how worthy — from seeing the light of day by refusing to bring the proposed legislation out of committee for a floor vote where they would be held accountable for their NAYs against good ideas if preferred by Democrats. The House rules, which the Republicans get to make because they are the majority party, make sure that ALL COMMITTEES have a Republican majority and since only a simple majority is required to vote yay or nay, they effectively deny ANY REPRESENTATION to 50 percent or more of the country.
It is impossible to understand what these groups represent unless they are seen as part of an authoritarian tradition that has gained enormous strength in the last twenty years as part of a broader effort to CORPORATIZE civil society, militarize everyday life, criminalize the effects of social problems, PRIVATIZE PUBLIC GOODS, eviscerate any viable reforms of the social, govern society through the laws [“laws” should be incorrect theories!] of the MARKETPLACE, and destroy those PUBLIC SPACES where norms and democratic values are produced and constantly renewed.
How can anyone not see that 45 and the path the country has been down for decades is a dead end? I still believe in Bernie Sanders; I think he was authentic and idealistic and had he not been cheated out of the primary which was most certainly, justly or not, determined by the Party to grant the female Clinton neoliberal corporatist the dynasty when clearly the status quo was no longer acceptable to an awakened citizenry.