by William Hawes
September 14, 2016
William Hawes is a
writer specializing in politics and environmental
His articles have
appeared online at Global Research, Counterpunch,
Dissident Voice, The World Financial Review, Gods &
Radicals, and Countercurrents.
He is author of the
Planetary Vision - Essays on
Freedom and Empire.
You can reach him
"The more powerful the
the more it claims not to
The Society of the Spectacle
It's almost time for our quadrennial political distraction,
masquerading as the US presidential election.
As opposed to previous elections, this
one feels quite different. Even with Obama/Romney in 2012,
important, basic economic issues were discussed, health care reform
was questioned, and foreign policy was given its due.
However, this time, the spectacle of the personalities seems to
dominate the conversation:
Mrs. Clinton is somehow
on a feminist crusade, an inspiration for women everywhere.
Going unmentioned are her irredeemable backers, such as the
Henry Kissinger and
As for Trump, his version
of America is as na´ve, narrow-minded, and delusional as a
Leave It to Beaver episode, or a Captain America
comic book. In the background, the monstrosity of global
capitalism goes unquestioned, and the cries from victims of
US institutional racism and structural violence go unheard.
Global warming, broad economic policy,
and nuanced foreign policy are simply too much to ask of these
Their stupidity knows no end
Their corruption and depravity
know no bounds
Many of both of their
supporters, as well as media, political, and corporate
backers and sycophants can be considered "deplorable"
Many supporters of the two-party system
do not bother to think about the damage either potential president
would do to people outside the US
Many backers of Trump and
Clinton have little to no basic knowledge of world cultures
What are the cords that connect us to
these "leaders", to our 'American
They are the same ones that the
Industrial Revolution, the basis of our civilization, has implanted
in each of us since birth, as
Alvin Toffler explains in
The Third Wave.
As our social world became modeled on
the factory floors developed in the 18th and 19th
centuries, a set of unspoken principles were ironed out, and
transferred to the political, social, and economic realms.
As we shall see, these principles spread
unchecked, and have infiltrated political discourse and social
Toffler identifies these implicit rules
Industry, production, and
factory life revolved around endless loops and inputs of
metals, fabrics, coal, oil, and specialized parts for
trains, cars, etc.
The simplification and standard
mechanical parts used were mirrored and reflected in the
culture at large: eventually, markets, the media, radio and
TV, and even great art and literature succumbed to
commoditization and homogenization.
We now have mass marketing,
public relations, and "electioneering", where our duopoly
controls all branches of government.
With the explosion in the fields
of science and engineering, specialized techniques were
taught to develop, invent, and maintain mechanical and
Yet again, this philosophy
infected the general society: only bureaucrats are able to
work in the halls of power, only industrial experts are able
to administer federal agencies, creating the disgraceful
revolving door phenomena in Washington.
As more people flocked into
cities with gleaming promises of steady, factory jobs, time
and punctuality became of prime importance. Punching
timecards and meeting quotas were necessary: there was no
room for leeway, as assembly lines demanded strict
The time demands of labor leaked
into white-collar work as well: in banking and finance,
railroads, time zones, and office jobs, advanced scheduling
became the norm.
Eventually, synchronization of
the political system gained traction, and the imperial
system came to resemble a deathly machine, marching in time
to bloody footsteps:
military, immoral diplomacy
and ideology, and industry worked together to lord over
Latin America with the Monroe Doctrine, annihilate
Native Americans using Manifest Destiny, even as today,
the excuse of the "War on Terror" is used to exterminate
entire populations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya,
Think of the vast oil and coal
stored underground for millions of years, only to be
strip-mined, taken up by rigs, and transported by rail and
tanker into vast refineries: concentration of energy.
Further, every class of people
became absorbed and intensified in the industrial system:
workers into factories, children into schools, mentally ill
into institutions, finance concentrated into New York,
London, and Paris.
Mega-mergers of corporations:
today, it is the Apple, Google, Shell, and BP's of the world
who have coffers of blood money held tidily in banks
throughout the world.
Further, the concentration of
technocrats who we supposedly need to run our societies: in
the West, the military-industrialists, just as the Soviets
were once told the nomenklatura was necessary.
Firms were encouraged to grow as
large as possible, and expand into as many fields as
Companies in Japan in the
mid-twentieth century would actually have workers sing of
the glory and greatness of their employer. Today, 62 people
have the same wealth as half the world's population.
This is concentration and
maximizing at its most obscene. Of course, you won't hear
Clinton, Trump, or anyone in Washington talking about this.
Maximizing GDP, corporate
profits, fossil fuel use, and flexing imperial muscle is
what the Feds do best.
Connected to the first five
rules of empire stated above, centralizing power, wealth,
and using knowledge for private gain is
required to uphold the industrial state.
Taxation, subsidies for
industry, political debates via the sham Committee on
Presidential Debates, the backroom shenanigans of the DNC
and RNC, and cloak and dagger lobbying and bribery now
dominate our system of government.
Further, the Leviathan of
state-sanctioned violence now lords over the world from the
Pentagon and NATO, and the centralization of information
runs through fiber-optic cables straight to the infernal,
yet temperature-controlled offices of the
The elections have adopted all the
patterns of the industrial, imperial state: we have,
We've seen specialized tactics of
gerrymandering, vote-rigging, PR bullshit, and strategists whose
careers accomplish nothing for the public good. We all know of the
synchronization of Wall Street, defense and oil companies.
concentration of power in the hands of the few
hardly needs mention: here's
the study by Princeton and
Northwestern professors who conclude that the US is an oligarchy,
not a democracy.
We've witnessed the maximization of
endless primaries, debates, press conferences, and town-hall
meetings ad infinitum. The centralization of political ideology
(triangulation in Clintonite terms, Machiavellian to a rational
person) and the limitations of discourse that our candidates display
are all too clear.
These are the iron chains holding us down, shackling us in Plato's
our candidates are figureheads,
shadows on the wall; they are puppets of the super-elite.
The central position they carve out in
the mainstream is really a pit, an abyss: one that we all find
ourselves in, as we continue to vote for those who don't fight for
The two best options for this election seem to be:
As for our obscene election cycles, I
believe Zach de la Rocha summed it up best:
A spectacle monopolized
The camera's eyes on choice
Was it cast for the mass who
burn and toil?
Or for vultures who thirst for
blood and oil?
1.) Alvin Toffler. The Third Wave.
Bantam, 1980. p. 46-60.