MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Naomi Klein's brilliant 2008 book, "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism," was a visionary breakthrough in understanding how the oligarchy uses catastrophic circumstances to seize economic control of nations. Taking advantage of natural, political and financial upheaval, Klein cogently argues, the apostles of Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand use disaster as an opportunity to implement extremist free-market economic policies while reducing government spending for the common good.
The mainstream media and political narrative that we have lived with for years - of lurching from one sensationalist crisis to another - has evolved into a continuous "shock doctrine." The neoliberal forces of unfettered capitalism and the global consolidation of wealth advance as we are distracted by lurid coverage that stimulates our fears but not our brains. Akira Watts eloquently addressed this ceaseless barrage of "fourth-estate" terror in a BuzzFlash commentary yesterday, "ISIS, Ebola, and Why Fear of the Unknown Makes Us Stupid."
The never-ending fusillade of frightening images and news evoke the fear of monsters from our childhood. It is news that both attracts and repulses us because of its titillating appeal to out primal phobias.
We cannot afford, however, to become so dismayed by the onslaught of unrelenting gruesome images and stories that we become paralyzed from taking action to reduce long-term grave threats and inequities, while also working to create a future that turns promising possibilities into realities.
The neoliberal corporate plutocracy owns the dominant media in the United States, and it couldn't be happier with the combination of high revenue and a numbed public. People who live in a permanent state of consternation and dismay do not rise up in revolt and demand systemic change. It's not difficult to pick the pocket of someone who is gaping at another person being mugged.
Grassroots activism has not disappeared. In recent years, we have seen a surge of protest in Wisconsin; the Occupy Movement; the New York climate march; the massive resistance in Ferguson, Missouri - and many more actions and movements. However, each time flames start to lick at the feet of the established order, there are massive attempts to smother them out, through a combination of police force, media distraction and the political power of the plutocracy.
The ongoing passage of trade agreements that provide global corporations with unprecedented powers - the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP) is pending, as well as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) - have been implemented for more than two decades now. Although there has been active opposition to many of them - particularly the Trans-Pacific Partnership - they generally sale through Congress and are signed by whatever president is in power, regardless of party.
The global trade agreements are allowing neoliberal economics to supersede sovereignty, and empowering corporations with rights that vitiate local regulations. This is what happens when the "shock doctrine" becomes a permanent part of our lives as a result of opportunistic media coverage.
If we continue to be transfixed by media-instilled fear about issues over which we have little control, we will ignore those over which we should be most concerned. That would indeed lead to a real catastrophe, one that we could prevent - if we avoid the paralysis of ongoing dread induced by corporate television news.
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