The 1% Rules Through Corporations
Edward Snowden’s courageous exposure of how NSA routinely intercepts the communications of private American citizens threatens to expose how corporations rule America. More political exposures are promised. The situation is not yet under control.
This can of worms includes a wide number of issues about the relations of police and the citizens
in this country. The central and most outrageous issue is that 70% of $72 billion dollar intelligence
budget goes to private contractors. These are private corporations. They are being put in charge of far
more than the militarized government intelligence. Coordinated through the Homeland Security
Agency contracts, police and military services at all levels have been privatized, from private prisons
to intelligence to corporate police squads.
Corporations have now accrued to themselves actual police power to use force over the people in society. These bodies meet in secret (“proprietary secrets”, “trade secrets”) and make policy about how to exercise their police authority. These discussions are now hidden from the public. Furthermore US law is clear: each and every corporation with police powers must guarantee maximum profits. This includes those with newly usurped police powers.
By exercising the will of corporations, these bodies are implementing a new, direct form of corporate rule. Laws, after all, are just words. When you come up against it, people are legally bound to obey the authority of whatever organization is empowered to exercise that authority, even if it’s violent. This is political power. On the street, with “the Rule of Law”, it’s the ruling that matters, not the “law”.
Ruling America 2.0 – Recent Developments
Let’s examine this transfer of power in the context of recent events. Since the Boston Marathon bombing, the American people has been getting lesson after lesson about the nature of the state apparatus. Here’s the sequence of events:
The Media Industrial Complex’s on-the-fly, multi-network crafting of narrative during the manhunt was a tremendous display of power. It was designed to do so, crafting the story of Muslim terrorists, while repeatedly showing the same film clips of police in body armor and tanks patrolling the streets, to demonstrate America’s strength to the world, and not insignificantly, to the American people.
No matter than most of the narrative was later shown to be untrue. No matter the creepy implications of the fact that you are always on film now. No matter that ex-CIA counter-terrorism director, Philip Mudd, publicly stated that the bombers seemed more like Columbine wackos than terrorists. (1)
It doesn’t matter either that the 1997 satire, “Wag the Dog”, revealed in detail how the state can fabricate what you see and therefore believe. As Robert De Niro, playing a “special op” in the film, said, “Of course it’s true! I saw it on TV”.
It’s not 1984 anymore. Thirty years later, Big Brother has far more in his tool kit than the clumsy techniques of the Industrial Era.
The Boston area was “shutdown” by police forces, with no declaration of martial law. This production was another message to anyone who seeks to challenge the power of the state. In post-911 America, this is all OK ‘cuz we’re getting the terrorists. The implications are clear for any city, perhaps like Los Angeles in the 1992 Rodney King Rebellion, that rises up against police control.
On May 13, Michael Sheehan, revealed that “War for Your Lifetime” will continue at least 10 to 20 more years. Writing in Wired, Spencer Ackerman, provided these insights:
“It was just two months ago that the top U.S. intelligence official testified that al-Qaida had been battered by the U.S. into a state of disarray. A year ago, the current CIA director, John Brennan, said that “For the first time since this fight began, we can look ahead and envision a world in which the al Qaeda core is simply no longer relevant.” Just this week, the commander of the Joint Special Operations Command, Army Lt. Gen. Joseph Votel, told a Florida conference that he was looking at missions beyond the counterterrorism manhunt.
“Yet a spokeswoman, Army Col. Anne Edgecomb, clarified that Sheehan meant the conflict is likely to last 10 to 20 more years from today — atop the 12 years that the conflict has already lasted. Welcome to America’s Thirty Years War.
“There is no geographic limit to that war, Sheehan and others testified, thanks to the seminal law authorizing it in the days after 9/11, known as the Authorization to Use Military Force. Thanks to that relatively terse authorization, US counterterrorism stretches ‘from Boston to the FATA’, Sheehan said, using the acronym for Pakistan’s tribal areas.” (2)
The same day, for the first time in US history, the military instituted its “right” to police America domestically, thereby undoing the Posse Comitatus Act that has been in effect since the Civil War. Jeff Morley wrote in the Long Island Press:
“By making a few subtle changes to a regulation in the U.S. Code titled “Defense Support of Civilian Law Enforcement Agencies” the military has quietly granted itself the ability to police the streets without obtaining prior local or state consent, upending a precedent that has been in place for more than two centuries.
“The most objectionable aspect of the regulatory change is the inclusion of vague language that permits military intervention in the event of “civil disturbances.” According to the rule:
“Federal military commanders have the authority, in extraordinary emergency circumstances where prior authorization by the President is impossible and duly constituted local authorities are unable to control the situation, to engage temporarily in activities that are necessary to quell large-scale, unexpected ‘civil disturbances’.
“Bruce Afran, a civil liberties attorney and constitutional law professor at Rutgers University, calls the rule, ‘a wanton power grab by the military,’ and says, ‘It’s quite shocking actually because it violates the long-standing presumption that the military is under civilian control.” (3)
The state has been asserting its power to rule in other ways. Last year, Congress passed the Military Defense Authorization Act. From Forbes Magazine:
So despite the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of a right to trial, the Senate bill would let the government lock up any citizen it swears is a terrorist, without the burden of proving its case to an independent judge, and for the lifespan of an amorphous war that conceivably will never end. (4)
The MDAA eliminates many protections of the Bill of Rights and contains the option of extraordinary rendition, by black ops into secret prisons, of virtually anyone, up to and including citizens, who are identified as “terrorists”.
Right here, just on this basis alone, every politician who agreed to this, up to and including the President and the Attorney General, not to mention a gaggle of Congressional leaders, are open to impeachment. This is after all Prima Facie evidence.
So exactly what is the legal definition of a “terrorist” anyway?
The head of the Senate Intelligence Committee (the committee supposedly charged with “oversight”, Diane Feinstein, redefined the term to include many traditional homegrown forms of social protest in the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act of 2006. Here “terrorism” is officially determined to mean an act of protest that reduces the profits of a corporation, its suppliers, or partners.
Matt Smith wrote in the SF Weekly in 2006:
“The thing is, however, that violence, threats, vandalism, and harassing assaults of the sort described by Feinstein are already illegal. Her bill criminalizes ordinary protest activities that weren’t illegal before.
“The new Act calls for more lengthy sentences for such activity, and punishes activists whose protests harm “tertiary targets,” or suppliers and other business partners of target companies. It includes language saying that the new bill will not infringe on ordinary social protest activities such as boycotts or picketing.
“Opponents of the bill say, however, that just by stating that it will be enforced in a way that respects constitutional protections of free speech and protest doesn’t make it so. The law’s very premise, they say, that protest that harms a company’s bottom line should be construed as a type of terrorism, is a frightening prospect for free speech.
‘The function of civil disobedience and a boycott are to cause loss of profits in order to get a message out. So we don’t think their distinctions make a difference,’ says Boghosian, the Lawyers Guild director.
“Most menacing, in my view, was Feinstein’s statement on Nov. 13 crowing about House passage of legislation whose Senate version she sponsored. ‘We can no longer tolerate criminally based activism regardless of the cause it allegedly advances,’ Feinstein said. ‘This is terrorism and it must be stopped.’ “(5)
Feinstein’s response to the Snowden was to indicate that it is not treason to spy illegally on the public, but it is treason to expose it! Feinstein, of course, receives huge campaign donations from the very corporations that control and profit from domestic spying, those that she is supposed to “oversee”.
The Rise of the Surveillance State
This then is the context for the developing NSA snooping scandal. Though much is secret, it is certain that the agency can analyze virtually every communication that Americans routinely use during the day, from landline calls to cell phones to emails. Through the program codenamed PRISM, the NSA, the world’s largest surveillance agency, collects the content of communications provided through Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and five other large Internet companies, including Verizon.
PRISM allows the NSA to obtain targeted communications without having to request them from the service providers and without having to obtain individual court orders. The NSA is able to reach directly into the servers of the participating companies and obtain stored communications, develop “metadata” – patterns of communication – and read the actual content of targeted individuals. This is unprecedented militarization of domestic communications infrastructure.
But – we are reassured – all the proper controls are in place, even though they can’t be discussed publicly because they are secret.
Despite the fact that every one in Congress and the Administration, with authority over intelligence, has violated their oath of office – prima facie evidence for impeachment – we are supposed to rest assured that nothing secret is aimed at Americans. This goes so far that when James Clapper, national director of intelligence, openly lies to Congress, Diane Feinstein sees no real need to replace him.
Sixty years of propaganda from the 1% has completely confused the basic definitions we use to describe power in America. “Government” refers to the apparatuses for making laws – local, state and federal – and providing money and services for society. This is different than the “state”, which explicitly exists to enforce those laws. Yet these terms are deliberately conflated.
The “state” means organized bodies of armed men, who are empowered to use forms of violence to guarantee what is so euphemistically referred to as “the rule of law”. The state, then, is the army, the police, the Migra, the courts, the prisons, the FBI, the CIA, the NSA, the secret agencies, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Alcohol, Firearms and Tobacco, etc, etc.
Americans have been propagandized to be against “Big Government”, but you don’t really hear people railing against sewer systems, highways or the national parks. What Americans really don’t like is the “Big State” – the use of armed force to curtail individual liberties. We are supposed to “drown the government in the bathtub”; meanwhile nobody says anything about the incredible growth and transformation of the state since 911.
A “drowned government” means ending government authority to regulate corporations. One interesting aspect of this line deals with the fact that every group of people in society needs to raise money to protect their interests. If you can’t get this money from the government, the only other place you can get it is from… corporations and banks. So “drowning the government” is just good business for corporations.
Corporations are the legal attack dogs of the 1%. By law, they specifically protect their directors and decision-makers, better known as capitalists, against liability for breaking the law. Consequently, corporate crime and depredations occur on a daily basis, from Wal-Mart to the XL Pipeline to the unregulated corporate CO2 emissions that, if not controlled, will destroy human society.
Corporate crime and white-collar crime dwarf every form of violent crime caused by individuals. Even more, the system revels in criminality, from the international drug trade that may have saved Wall Street in 2008, due to daily deposits, to the fact that the banks that engaged in illegal foreclosures refuse to payoff their obligations.
Yet the police are assigned to show up at every demonstration to protect corporate headquarters, and generally violate the civil rights of people when it does.
That’s the state in action. It’s hardly neutral, but it real goal is carefully hidden behind the popular idea that the state “administers laws impartially and guarantees social order”. It is obvious today that the state guarantees the rule of the 1%, who just happen to exert their will over government to make the laws the state enforces, through an open system of bribery known as lobbying. It’s all perfectly legal!
The state has metastasized greatly since 1984. The NSA existed then, perhaps more hidden than now, but there were no personal computers, no internet, no digital communications then. The largest transformation of the American state since World War II occurred right after 911 with the creation of the Homeland Security Agency. The state has spent about $30 billion a year since then to intrude the HSA into every facet of domestic life. The main way this has been done is to privatize various police functions, to literally create a corporate state with police powers.
Naomi Klein blew the whistle on this in her important and essential book, The Shock Doctrine (2007). Klein describes the rise of the HSA Shadow State that includes financing private policing corporations like Blackwater to private prisons:
“The emergence of this parallel privatized infrastructure reaches far beyond policing. When the contractor infrastructure built up during the Bush years is looked at as a whole, what is seen is a fully articulated state-within-a-state that is as muscular and capable as the actual state is frail and feeble. This corporate shadow state has been built almost exclusively with public resources (90 percent of Blackwater’s revenues come from state contracts), including the training of its staff (overwhelmingly former civil servants, politicians and soldiers). Yet the vast infrastructure is all privately owned and controlled. The citizens who have funded it have absolutely no claim to this parallel economy or its resources. The actual state, meanwhile, has lost the ability to perform its core functions without the help of contractors.” (6)
Further describing the military power of disaster capitalism, Klein writes:
“It was built in the Bush era, but it now exists quite apart from any one administration and will remain entrenched until the corporate supremacist dialogue that underpins it is identified, isolated and challenged….
“A more accurate term for a system that erases the boundaries between Big Government and Big Business is not liberal, conservative or capitalist, but corporatist. Its main characteristics are huge transfers of public wealth to private hands, often accompanied by exploding debt, an ever-widening chasm between the dazzling rich and the disposable poor and an aggressive nationalism that justifies bottomless spending on security. For those inside the bubble of extreme wealth created by such an arrangement, there can be no more profitable way to organize a society. But because of the obvious drawbacks for the vast majority of the population left outside the bubble, other features of the corporatist state tend to include aggressive surveillance (once again with government and large corporations trading favors and contracts), mass incarceration, shrinking civil liberties and often, though not always, torture.” (7)
It’s worth remembering here the old saying that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. When Mussolini, the theoretician of Fascism, was asked what it meant, he is credited with replying:
“Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.”
Understanding that the state, properly defined, is an armed, repressive apparatus, it is now clear why the state uses force to protect and extend the interests of the 1%.
Capitalists have always had state power in the United States. But now their corporations have seized the power to exercise police authority directly. The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution is supposed to protect people from unreasonable search and seizure. But it only applies to government, not to corporations!
Since the state is the organization of the ruling class, there has always been the closest collaboration between corporate leaders and the police. In the Palmer Raids in 1919 and 1920, the Department of Justice organized coordinated raids across the country, to arrest and physically beat labor activists, including communists and anarchists. These boys threatened the roaring profits of the post World War I era.
On November 7, 1919, for example – the second anniversary of the Russian Revolution – federal and local police attacked Russian workers in 12 cities. The fledgling media-state publicized these events in dramatic fashion, much like they did with the LAPD in “Dragnet” in the TV era. This is where J Edgar Hoover became a media star! People were dragged in, questioned, beaten. Arrests far exceeded the number of warrants. Then, like now, we hear, “Oooops, my Bad!”
It’s far more tightly organized now. In May, the Center for Media and Democracy, released their investigation of police cooperation with banks and corporations during the national wave of Occupy movements in 2011: Dissent or Terror – How The Nation’s Counter Terrorism Apparatus, in Partnership With Corporate America, Turned on Occupy Wall Street. The report states:
“Put simply, the pattern that emerges from these pages shows that heavily-funded municipal, county, state and federal “counter-terrorism” agencies (often acting in concert through state/regional “fusion centers”) view citizens engaged in movements of political and social dissent, such as Occupy Wall Street (and its regional incarnations), as nothing less than nascent, if not bonafide, “terrorist” threats….
“Furthermore, records obtained by DBA/CMD from agencies active in state counter - terrorism “fusion centers– including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) – demonstrate the institutionalized blending of corporate security with “national security” through a number of public-private “counter-terrorism” intelligence sharing programs.
“What has resulted is the wholesale criminalization of tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of American citizens who have dared to voice opposition to what is increasingly viewed as the undue influence of private corporate/financial interests in the functions of public government.” (8)
The report notes that there are more than 70 “fusion centers” operating throughout the country. The
US Patriot Act facilitated the creation of information sharing between intelligence agencies, law enforcement and “private sector actors”.
The Patriot Act also created the Domestic Security Alliance Council. This is a public-private partnership between the FBI, DHS and major corporations. The leadership board is made up of 29 corporations and banks, including “Bank of America, MasterCard, Citigroup, American Express, Barclays, RBS Citizens, 3M, Archer Daniels Midland, ConocoPhillips, Time Warner and Wal-Mart.” Aren’t these the same corporations that brought down the economy in 2008? The same ones we bailed out? the same ones who offshore most of their profits to avoid paying taxes?
NSA was collecting an average of 3 billion messages a day during March of this year! Yet, we are told by everyone from Obama on down, that the agency is only collecting communications that go out of the country! Ridiculous! It is fair to say, given the information in this report, that the American public simply has no comprehension of the new corporate state. And for good reason, most of it is hidden from us.
Glenn Greenwald reports:
“Democratic Rep. Loretta Sanchez said after Congress on Wednesday was given a classified briefing by NSA officials on the agency’s previously secret surveillance activities:
”’What we learned in there is significantly more than what is out in the media today… I can’t speak to what we learned in there, and I don’t know if there are other leaks, if there’s more information somewhere, if somebody else is going to step up, but I will tell you that I believe it’s the tip of the iceberg . . . . I think it’s just broader than most people even realize, and I think that’s, in one way, what astounded most of us, too.’” (9)
Maybe Sanchez is referring to the story that just broke today, as I finish this article, that government computers have stored the actual photos of 120 million Americans, “in case they need them in criminal investigations.” My guess that we will see that this unwarranted invasion of personal privacy is just chicken feed in comparison with what’s really going on.
Where Is This All Going?
The Gulf Oil Spill in 2010 is a cautionary tale of where things are heading. As the oil reached the shore, reporters went to public beaches to film and observe. They were met by British Petroleum officials, who told them they could not be on the beach. The reporters just laughed – after all, what’s public is public. The BP officials simply pulled out their cell phones and called the police, who detained the reporters and whisked them away.
Today, an increasing number of economists recognize that the next economic collapse is being prepared by the very same banks, with the collusion of the federal government, using the very same economic weapons of mass destruction that caused the 2008 collapse. With the open collaboration of the government, banks are manipulating financial markets to appropriate the wealth of society. Slowly but steadily, the economic crisis is passing over to becoming a political crisis. Obama’s actions towards guaranteeing the XL pipeline are just one example of this.
Most cities and states are deeply in debt to the banks we have already bailed out. Private-sector debt dwarfs all other forms of debt combined; yet the financial speculators and hedge funds are aggressively rigging the system (10). Students, homeowners and medical patients are becoming debt slaves. And while you were sleeping, the IMF and the European Central bank announced that Cyprus sets the model “for how future stresses will be handled”. In other words, your bank deposits have been declared “equity investments”, meaning that they can legally take up to a 100% loss. (11)
So the next time the banks bring down the economy, will Americans once again accept that they are “too big to fail”? Does anyone really think corporations are neutral here? So what will the corporate state do, when Americans begin to act on the obvious – that either the people will take over the corporations or the corporations will destroy society and the planet into the bargain?
Corpstate will do what a state is supposed to do – protect the economic interests of the rulers. It will expand the surveillance, the Black Ops, employ rendition, expand secret prisons and drones, and use the already-militarized police to guarantee its rule.
Most people already agree with Edward Snowden that this is not the America that they want to see. But it’s the economic system that creates the state, not the other way around. In 1857, slave property controlled the Supreme Court, the Presidency and the Congress. Their power was abolished with the abolition of slavery. Today corporations likewise control the three branches of government. Abolish corporations and abolish their rule!
Notes and Background:
(1) “Ex-CIA deputy director: Boston bombing ‘more like Columbine than al Qaeda”. David Edwards Fox News, 4-21-2013
(2) “Pentagon Spec Ops Chief Sees ’10 to 20′ More Years of War Against al-Qaida”. Spencer Ackerman, 5-15-2013
(4) “The National Defense Authorization Act is the Greatest Threat to Civil Liberties Americans Face”. Forbes, 12-5-2011
(6) Naomi Klein. The Shock Doctrine. 2007. p 417
(7) Op sit, p 14-15
(8) Dissent or Terror – How The Nation’s Counter Terrorism Apparatus, in Partnership With Corporate America, Turned on Occupy Wall Street. p 1
(9) “Just the Tip of the Iceberg”. Glenn Greenwald, Guardian UK.15 June 13, 2013
(10) “Government Debt and Deficits Are Not the Problem. Private Debt Is.” Michael Hudson. 3-12-2013
(11) “It Can Happen Here: The Bank Confiscation Scheme for US and UK Depositors”. Ellen Brown. Global Research, 3-29-2013