We're history's actors...and you, all of you, will be left to just study
what we do
''The aide said that guys like me were ''in
what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people
who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible
reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles
and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works
anymore,'' he continued. We're an empire now, and when we act, we create
our own reality. And while you're studying that reality - judiciously,
as you will - we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you
can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors
. . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''
What did the aide to President Bush have in mind when he said these
words to a journalist in 2004? He is clearly saying that empire is
acting to shape events. Reviewing anything after the event changes nothing
- it's academic. Reading between the lines, it's like the script is written,
the show has begun - only this drama is so finely woven into our perceived
reality that we don't discern the part of it that is prewritten, staged,
spun or fabricated. We're just left to watch each episodic consequence
of imperial policy as it cascades down to us.
So don't be surprised if the 'new realities' empire is creating will exploit
the public's appetite for action movies, heroes and villains, spies and
assassins, grand CGI cinema illusions, explosions, choreographed 'reality
tv' and computer
games. It makes sense for empire to mirror popular culture to get
noticed. Consider the worldwide popularity of WWF wrestling. Note that
Fox News is now the most watched and (get this) the most
trusted news channel in the US.*1 So,
assuming many major events are similarly substantially scripted, what
is in the script?
Let's take a scenario. A new President is appointed. He is the cuddly
mascot for an aggressive ideology. His administration desperately wants
to increase military spending.*2 Only military
power, it is argued, will ensure compliance from other governments. Investors
expect their investments to be paid back with interest. *3
The threat of overwhelming military power is the best insurance against
non-payment. And yet, one oil rich state isn't playing ball. Others could
follow. What's the solution? Imperial power must be asserted.*4
An example must be made. But when we deliver the killer punch we need
to be seen as the good guys, OK. So, what's the storyline?
Script: Let's make no mistake: The modernization of the
Department of Defense is a matter of some urgency. In fact, it could be
said that it's a matter of life and death, ultimately, every American's.*5 Objection: But we just pulled down the Berlin Wall. Communism
is dead. Give peace a chance. Script: See these hijacked passenger planes exploding,
these collapsing skyscrapers, hysterical on-lookers, crowds running for
the exits, anthrax in the mail. Now it really IS a matter of life and
death. Congress MUST pass the Patriot Act urgently. Look, 9/11
changed everything. We need to deploy our military to Afghanistan
and Iraq. Objection: Why? Script: To capture Bin Laden, crush Al Qaeda and free
the Iraqi people from tyranny. Objection: Hang on a minute. Saddam Hussein has
nothing to do with Al Qaeda. In what sense would invading Iraq be
an act of legitimate self defence? Would the UN support it? Script: Look - the UN is irrelevant. Saddam Hussein's
has WMDs. They are pointing at you, They are 45 minutes away. Cue 'Eye
of the Tiger' Rocky III theme music . Cut to explosions across the Baghdad
night sky, excited journalists riding tanks, elated Iraqis, the toppling
of a statue of the dictator, the President saluting the brave, mission
accomplished. Objection: If we're done why aren't the troops coming
home? Script: US presidential elections 2008. An African American
is elected promising 'Change you can believe in'.*6
Cue a cacophony of headlines declaring credit crunch, banking collapse,
bank runs. Objection: What! You mean I could lose my savings? Script: Yes, congress must agree this $700bn rescue package
for the banks URGENTLY.
And so the script continues.. each crisis ramped up to fever pitch to
maximise the pressure on politicians to vote for something they might
not have otherwise agreed to (more spending
on defence, extended
detention without charge, loan
guarantees for private banks, further deregulation,
austerity measures, mergers and privatisations).
Perhaps, as the Bush aide implied, we are powerless to reign in empire.
Peaceful mass protest failed to prevent massive violence against Iraq.
Official inquiries serve only to confirm
the official storyline. The notion that journalists or anyone else
can change the plot sounds increasingly idealistic. Too many vested interests
are now at play delivering the next exciting twist. Too much commercial
and private profit is riding on the plot delivering as planned.
There's no fortunes to be made puncturing the facade. Hecklers are routinely
discredited, marginalised, sacked,
or silenced.*7 139 journalists have been
in Iraq - more than during
the Vietnam war. With Net
Neutrality under pressure and Google completely
controlling on-line search, it is looking questionable that citizen journalism
can fill the void.
Representative democracy is not going to change the
script. It's unlikely that the President or the Prime Minister have
any hand in writing it. They deliver the lines, they persuade, charm,
sign off on the policy and bring MPs into line. Actors like Reagan
and lawyers like Blair
are well suited to the task.*8
No, to know the script start with the richest 1%. They ALREADY own
almost 40% of the world's global assets. These
are 'history's actors' -
empire builders and their descendants, with interests in banking, oil,
drugs, film, media, guns and criminality. Historically rich men have used
their wealth to dictate terms to governments. *9
Why would this be any different today? Governments
are totally at the mercy of financial markets in which the wealthiest
1% have the decisive say.*10
Today's corporate CEOs are
mere delivery boys by comparison to those that really wield the fortunes.
Collossal wealth bends a lot of ears. It buys a lot of lobbyists, media
and political influence. It funds influencial think tanks, educational
establishments, charities and campaigns. It even funds wars. It persuades
Presidents to cut taxes
most for the rich. It greases
the hands of the corrupt to seal the multi-billion dollar deal. It
finds monopoly of supply to be in its best interest and so studiously
ignores the competitive free trade principles it forces others to follow.
It gets things done. It even has a controlling influence within the state's
secret apparatus. *11
Complex games are played out to deliver the script in a way that allows
its spokesperson to claim the moral high ground. In this world of 'new
realities' the philanthropic
ambitions of the 1% are loudly trumpeted whilst the victims of their
'all for profit' strategies are quietly airbrushed away. Coercion is everywhere
and the penalty for unveiling state secrets is harsh.
So what can we know for sure. We can
know that empire is a powerfully seductive storyteller. We can know that
it's right to be sceptical
of empire's stated motives. We can know that governments act in the interests
of acquisitive private sector companies from whom they get tax receipts.*12
We can know that the wealthiest people,
if not already within government, are able to send out very strong messages
to government through the markets. We can know that a change of government
may just result in continuity where foreign policy is concerned.
Finally, we can know that, alongside the 'reality-based community' is
another community. They call themselves 'history's actors', they have
a script, and what they are rehearsing next is not the
*1 This is in spite of clear
evidence that managers at Fox are prepared to put commercial profit
before public health.
*2 Bolton, Cheney, Perle, Rumsfeld and
Wolfowitz are all signatories
to the principles
of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). In its strategic
thinking this group famously admitted that the journey to ensuring
US invincibility - 'Creating Tomorrow's Dominant Force' - would be 'a
long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a
new Pearl Harbor'. Many have made a link between these attitudes and the
response to 9/11.
*3 President Bush made no bones about whose
interests he represented, hence his statement
at a dinner fundraiser of the rich and wealthy… ‘"This
is an impressive crowd - the haves and the have-mores. Some people call
you the elites; I call you my base."
*5 These were the actual words of Donald
Rumsfeld during a Department of Defense speach in which he attacked the
Pentagon's bureaucracy saying, 'according to some estimates, we cannot
track $2.3 trillion in transactions.' The
speach was made the day before 9/11.
*7 In fact, Obama shows a strong preference
in many of his appointments. Robert Gates will continue as secretary of
defence. Lawrence Summers, champion of deregulated derivatives, will run
the National Economic Council.
*8 New Labour came to power promising a
ethical foreign policy, then proceeded to render millions of Iraqis
homeless. In 2009, Amnesty International listed 60
new powers curtailing human rights. The UK Parliament has made these
law since 1997.
In the US there were numerous Rockefeller
associates appointed to the Kennedy
Administration. In the UK Nathan Rothschild
came from a family so wealthy that it once bailed
out the Bank of England. Lloyd George,
in 1909, called him the most powerful man in Britain.
We are currently being told that government deficits must be brought under
control. Slashing of services and sale of remaining public assets (libraries
etc) is the prescription - ie. bog standard IMF
Structural Adjustment conditions. Yet the financial advisers who urge
this course of action are the same ones that urged a public bailout of
the banks just months ago. To support lending to the banks, governments
have themselves become dangerously overindebted. This makes them vulnerable.
They need a continuous stream of buyers for their bonds. Loss of confidence
in their ability to find buyers for these bonds would paralyse the government's
*11 After Nelson Rockefeller was appointed
special assistant to the President on Cold War affairs, he represented
President Eisenhower on the National Security Council's Operations Coordinating
Board (OCB). The OCB was responsible for authorising all CIA covert operations.
and gas provide 30%
of all UK corporation tax receipts.
Graph: Look what percentage of business/financial assets are in the
hands of the wealthiest 1% in the US. And note that the bottom 90% are
the one's saddled with all the debt and with all their wealth tied up
in the roof over their heads. For this and other revelations read the
recently updated 'Wealth,
Income, and Power' by William Domhoff.