Time to break free: Loosening America’s stranglehold. Part III
Sawing through the legs of the stool.
Many will argue that the Covid-19 crisis provides the perfect opportunity for a more communal-minded socialism to displace the selfish individualism of the neo-liberalism ideology on which the West’s privileged elites are feasting. Might it be argued that, for instance, Cuban socialism was a preferable system?
It is doubtful that such virtuous and major systemic change will occur overnight. Certainly, given the current stranglehold the elite have over public minds and bodies, significant, systemic reform is unlikely to be spontaneously generated within the USA. It would seem that any such move will be up to other nations to instigate.
As explained in the preceding blog, there are three legs of the stool on which the ruling elites are seated as they milk their herd. Perhaps in overseas, US-aligned centres of government, the elite’s control systems could be destabilised by the amputation of one or other of the three legs of its milking stool. As the people of other, US harmonised regimes realised the possibilities, such an achievement could begin a chain-reaction. In not just the USA, but in many other western-oriented countries, the saw needs to be applied to:
- Extreme wealth interfering in political process.
- Media distorting popular opinion.
- Secret intelligence agencies following their own and the elite’s agendas.
Extreme wealth interfering in political process.
Allowing extremes of wealth to develop with their associated inequalities is demonstrably harmful for a society. For some of the victors, the prospect and pursuit of wealth is an incentive, just as is doing well in a competitive sport. It would be a sad society that was unable to offer that incentive. It is however a question of degree. As in sport, so with the accumulation of wealth: for the individual, once sufficient material well-being, financial security and choice of socially-acceptable life-styles has been acquired, the accumulation of additional wealth is more a question of gaining further prestige and social standing, than the freedom to devour even more of the Earth’s resources.
All wealth is ultimately derived from the society in which it is gained: no society; no wealth! Surplus wealth in private hands, responsibly spent, can be used to a society’s great advantage and can probably be more efficiently deployed than through a government bureaucracy. However, as is clearly visible in the USA, the never-ending accumulation of wealth can become an obsession with all manner of undesirable pathological side-effects accruing to society at large.
I leave those with far greater expertise than mine to work out more appropriate details of the rough outlines proposed below. Firstly, such individual peaks of ownership should be capped – say at $100 million, with all surplus passing to state control. Annual income derived from that wealth should be taxed. The wealth and income should stay in the country of acquisition. Penalties for evasion should be severe.
$100 million still leaves enough in the hands of wealthy individuals to allow them to distort elections and the voting of sitting politicians. It is imperative to prevent this happening. It is partly a question of what regulation can be put in place and secondly a question of social attitude to offences committed in this direction. Rules regarding funding of political parties, electoral advertising etc. are crucial.
If a significant spur to the acquisition of wealth is social standing, then to abuse wealth to distort democratic process should have attached to it the disincentive of attracting the highest social opprobrium – as well as heavy legal penalties. If power corrupts, power combined with wealth has the potential to corrupt absolutely. No one in the top ten percentile (or whatever) of a population in terms of personal wealth (including that hidden in loopholes) should be eligible for political office.
Media distorting popular opinion.
No need to go into detail on this subject. It is what deliberately doesn’t get reported, as much as what does, which distorts the views of the public and their political leaders’ understanding of the reality they have to react to. About twelve conglomerates control 90% of the western world’s mainstream media. Media ownership
Much of that ownership is in the hands of corporates, such as Disney, that regard themselves primarily as being in the entertainment business. Just three news agencies feed the mainstream media around 90% of the foreign news they present to their clients.
As a whole, with advertising revenues coming under increasing pressure from social media platforms, the print media is in dire straits and the tightness of its budgets is reflected in the concentration span of the journalists and their limited ability and competence to discern and disseminate the truth. Those wishing to make a career in journalism have to conform in what they write to what they know is acceptable to their owners and their readers. Their readership will have already absorbed the general world view presented in the past. Few readers appreciate having their views contradicted by what they read. Thus, an already distorted, established world-view is constantly reinforced. In these circumstances, penetration and manipulation of the media is extremely simple for western intelligence agencies and other psy-op careerists.
How can such a situation be remedied? Again better minds than mine will have to fill in the details. Here are some ideas. Media has three functions: advertising, entertaining and informing about local, national and international affairs. Media dealing with information need to be treated separately.
Local media is best owned locally. It will not be highly profitable and, should a universal basic wage transpire at the end of the Covid crisis, it could rely heavily on local volunteers. It should be seen as a community service rather than private profit centre and if need be, subsidised by local government. Overseas interests in its ownership should be illegal.
Cinema and broadcast entertainment media, such as Netflix and Spotify, should be allowed untrammelled access to the market provided their local earnings can be taxed. Other foreign owned media could be defeated by locally owned competition and ultimately, its distribution atrophy, but only if the local offering provides a source of information preferred by the public.
A recent case in New Zealand of the German owner of a significant proportion of the country’s leading magazine titles closing them down at scant notice, demonstrates another problem with foreign ownership of the media – a total unconcern with the welfare of NZ society. Each of these titles was started in NZ by New Zealanders and then, as soon as it became of national significance and profitable, bought up by a foreign media conglomerate. This is a perfect demonstration of how the workings of neo-liberal ideology are contrary to the communal interest. There should be legislation preventing control of such media going overseas.
Broadcast media with national coverage should also have their ownership retained within national boundaries. There should be at least one NZ-owned national newspaper and also a press agency.Control of these should be in the hands of a nationally controlled trust along the lines of the BBC. News should be gathered by government paid journalists, some of whom would be seconded to NZ overseas diplomatic missions.
Their role would be independent investigation and verification of realities. Public opinion forms the parameters within which a nation’s foreign policy can operate. The garnering and accuracy of the information that forms public opinion is therefore, a matter of national security. The journalists are in the front line and should be respected as such. They are more deserving of tax-payer funding than the corrupt intelligence agencies and those sections of the armed forces designed to fight other nations’ battles overseas. If the quality of the reporting is as high as is to be hoped, the government owned press agency could become profitable through overseas distribution of its utterly trustworthy reports.
At the moment, the media’s ethical conduct is controlled by watchdogs financed by the foreign owned media themselves. This is an absurd provision and is regularly abused. Perhaps the watchdog role should be placed in the hands of the Ombudsman? If so, it should only be after that office had been more thoroughly insulated from the influence of other government agencies than is currently the case.
Secret intelligence agencies following their own agendas. This conduit of Anglo-American influence over NZ political decisions should be terminated. The terrorist-fighting function, which NZ’s SIS has been demonstrably ineffective in filling, should be handed over to the Police. Foreign electronic intelligence harvesting operations, such as Waihopai, should be closed unless a cost-effective, New Zealand-based means of evaluating information can be developed (and the information so collected deemed more valuable than that otherwise gathered by a greatly enhanced diplomatic service.)
The main source of NZ government information should no longer be what the CIA and Co. tell NZ’s SIS, but intelligence gathered by NZ diplomats and journalists based in embassies abroad. Were by this time, NZ to have become formally non-aligned and no longer associated with the CIA and western intelligence, its diplomatic missions could be far more effective in their role of keeping the government and the NZ public aware of what was actually going on in the world.
Of course, the urgency of all of the three proposed leg-amputations would be reduced were the community of nations to decide on a thoroughgoing and effective reform of the UN. When drafting this blog, I originally had a fourth leg to the stool – the systematic subversion and domination of multi-national institutions. However, the realisation of such reform looks as unlikely as the other measures outlined above, unless there is a sea-change in the aggressive and extractive way in which nations currently view humanity’s relationship to Earth and its existence on it. The crises that will arise in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic may well provide opportunity for such change to come about.