Corporate Control, from the EU to the US

There is a recent incident of the EU putting out corporate propaganda. An EU report directly plagiarized a paper written by big ag, in ensuring the public that glyphosate (Roundup) is a healthy additive to your family’s diet and so there is no need to strictly regulate it.

“The BfR [Germany’s Federal Institute for Risk Assessment commissioned by the EU] had thus copied Monsanto’s explanation of Monsanto’s approach in evaluating the published literature, yet had presented it as the approach of the authority. This is a striking example of deception regarding true authorship.”
(Joseph Mercola, EU Infiltrated by Pesticide Industry Plagiarizes Safety Study)

Don’t worry about it. Monsanto’s products are safe and good. How do we know? Because Monsanto told us so. It’s amazing they get away this kind of thing. And they do it all the time.

Corporate lobbyists regularly have direct influence over politicians. They even sometimes write the bills that get passed into laws. And that is on top of regulatory capture, revolving doors, legalized bribery, etc. I don’t know why we tolerate this. It’s so often done brazenly, as if they are rubbing our faces in it, daring us to try to stop them, as if to demonstrate to us that we are powerless and so we should just cynically accept our subordinate position.

I’m so often reminded of the actions of the East India Company prior to the American Revolution. They thought they were above all morality and laws, beholden to no one. They began taking on the powers of a government, as they piggybacked on British imperialism. That was the first era when corporatism took hold in the Anglo-American world.

It shouldn’t surprise any of us by now. Think about it.

Western governments on behalf of corporations have regularly harmed and killed millions of innocents through trade agreements, sanctions, wars of aggression, coups, training paramilitary groups, etc in order to ensure for corporations access to trade routes, natural resources, and cheap labor (e.g., Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State intervened in Haiti to drive down wages so as to maintain cheap labor for US corporations, which is why so many Haitian-Americans voted for Trump and helped him to win Florida). A governing body like the EU putting out corporate propaganda is a small act in the big scheme.

Our governments, especially in the US, don’t represent the citizenry. Generations of attempts at reform from within the system have mostly failed, although a few successes here and there. The US government is more corporatist now than at any prior point in history. Yet every election cycle candidates in both parties promise all kinds of things. That doesn’t stop the system from continuing on as before in serving big biz, as scientific studies have shown. If more of the same keeps resulting in more of the same, maybe it’s time we did something different.

The majority of the American public has been steadily moving left in their policy positions for decades. At this point, the average American is to the left of both parties on many major issues. When some political, media, or think tank elite speaks of ‘centrism’ and ‘moderation’, ask yourself what is the defining frame? Well, obviously they mean moderating toward the center of power, not moderating toward the center of majority support. The problem is the majority doesn’t know it is a majority because the propaganda campaign has been so highly effective with near total control of the party system and corporate media.

Cracks are beginning to show, though. In the past, the gatekeepers would have so tightly controlled these issues that the American public would rarely have heard about any of it. But the corporate media stranglehold is beginning to loosen. Or maybe some of the ruling elite are finally coming around to the sense of self-preservation that motivated a born plutocrat like Theodore Roosevelt to reign in corporate wealth and power.

* * *

‘Call It the Oppression of the Supermajority’: Americans Eager for Bold Change, So Why Can’t They Get It?
by Jake Johnson, Common Dreams

Most Americans support Medicare for All, higher taxes on the rich, a Green New Deal, and other major items on the progressive agenda—so why has Congress failed to enact them?

The reason, Columbia University Law School professor Tim Wu argued in an op-ed for the New York Times on Tuesday, is that the influence of corporations and the donor class on the American political system has drowned out the policy desires of the public.

“In our era, it is primarily Congress that prevents popular laws from being passed or getting serious consideration. (Holding an occasional hearing does not count as ‘doing something’),” Wu wrote. “Entire categories of public policy options are effectively off-limits because of the combined influence of industry groups and donor interests.”

To bolster his argument, Wu rattled off a number of policies that—despite polling extremely well among large, bipartisan swaths of the American public—have not garnered enough support among lawmakers to pass Congress.

“About 75 percent of Americans favor higher taxes for the ultra-wealthy. The idea of a federal law that would guarantee paid maternity leave attracts 67 percent support,” Wu noted. “Eighty-three percent favor strong net neutrality rules for broadband, and more than 60 percent want stronger privacy laws. Seventy-one percent think we should be able to buy drugs imported from Canada, and 92 percent want Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices. The list goes on.”

Since the election of President Donald Trump in 2016, Congress has in many cases done the opposite of what most Americans want by slashing taxes on the richfailing to restore net neutrality rules, and attempting to strip healthcare from millions of Americans.

“The defining political fact of our time is not polarization. It’s the inability of even large bipartisan majorities to get what they want on issues like these,” argued Wu. “Call it the oppression of the supermajority. Ignoring what most of the country wants—as much as demagogy and political divisiveness—is what is making the public so angry.”

Wu’s contention that the “combined influence” of the donor class and big business is significantly responsible for Congress’ refusal to enact popular policies matches the conclusion of a 2014 study (pdf) by political scientists Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page, who found that in the United States, “the majority does not rule—at least not in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes.”

“When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites or with organized interests, they generally lose,” Gilens and Page wrote. “Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the U.S. political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.”

11 thoughts on “Corporate Control, from the EU to the US

  1. I don’t know that “the majority of the American public has been steadily moving left in their policy positions for decades” so much as the majority of the American public has been steadily moving “south,” which is to say toward thinking as much with their hearts as with their heads, and “moderating toward the center of majority support,” as you put it, or (in other words) toward bringing some semblance of sanity to the process.

    Authoritarianism is obviously not a pathology strictly confined to those who choose to position themselves “on the right” of the political spectrum (which actually is quadilateral as opposed to dualistic). It’s as much a potential pitfall on “the left” and “the right” as extreme Libertarianism. Unfortunately there is no one among us who can effectively make that argument because “left vs right,” social ideologies, which you’ve worded as “predetermined opposing viewpoints,” rule the mainstream media and just so happen to be in the ascendency among (so-called) “elites,” if not the public, for the moment; and it’s those predetermined opposing viewpoints that are being wielded by propagandists in their quest to Divide and Conquer the American public. Couple that with the fact that the Democratic and Republican parties have both worked overtime to ensure that they alone have access to “the halls of power” and you have the recipe for the political disaster we’re experiencing today. Proportional representation is obviously non-existent in America.

    On the bright side, the tactic is backfiring on both so-called “major” parties. They’ve both been losing constituents for decades, but are too self-involved to notice.

    That’s why I’m fairly excited by the present theme of “decentralization” or “relocalization.” As more of us awaken to the fact that we are far from alone and powerless, our energies and talents are simultaneously being channeled into far more creative pursuits, “apocalypse” (i.e. “uncovering, disclosing, revealing”) among them.

    Now, about that “political compass….” It’s outdated itself in that it charts those “predetermined opposing viewpoints” as opposed to what is actually happening “on the ground,” as it were. While still useful as a map of those preexisting and predetermined “view-points” (and accompanying ideologies), it can’t and doesn’t capture anything but that particular “landscape.” (I refuse to call it a “mindscape.”) Fortunately for us, “landscape” is not synonymous with “spectrum.” Most of all it serves as a cautionary tale to avoid planting a flag irrevocably at some “point” on that landscape (at least, to me) as opposed to paying attention to the “spectrum.” It’s for that reason that I can’t recommend the “quiz” unless, of course, one wants to plot where they might fit in an ideological strait-jacket.

    • Thanks for the additional commentary. I think you put more thought into your comment than I did with my post. I was jotting off something rather quickly. It was mostly an opportunity to share some of the kind of data I’ve previously shared, as I sometimes like to repeat myself. I thought the Common Dreams piece summarized it well. But you add further depth.

      • I think you put more thought into your comment than I did with my post.

        Not really. My comment just meanders from the actual subject of this particular, apocalyptic post to pick up and weave in a few of the other threads apparent on your blog. The data you’re sharing just so happens to be the data our corporate overlords are so busily attempting to suppress. (Mercola is not at all respected in the mainstream as a source of reliable data, however, because he has an alarming tendency to exaggerate claims.)

        Despite continued corporate and monied control of EU (and US, et alia) political processes, however, “Germany + 13 Other Countries [Have Said] No to Glyphosate.”

        So much for the supposed inevitability of absolute “centralization” of power. Countries, regions, states and local communities alike are flexing their own muscles despite or, perhaps, even in spite of attempted corporate assimilation.

        • Yeah, I’ve noticed that Mercola is hit and miss. He goes more for quantity than always quality. He or maybe staff working for him put out a lot of material. If much of it is being ghost written, that could explain the variation. Either that or Mercola is constantly writing and doing very little else with less emphasis on carefulness than would be advisable.

          I pay attention to him only when it seems relevant. This particularly piece offered quotes, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t put a spin on it. I could’ve researched it further as I often do. The reason I didn’t was because was more of a way of introducing the other article that interested me more.

          The response you describe is heartening. It hardly seems like enough, though. Corporatism has become so entrenched that some local sovereignty is minor. I’m not seeing much in the way of local motivation toward solutions of global problems caused by neoliberalism. Much of it is reactionary populism. But there are a few bright spots such as some countries adopting alternative energy.

        • By the way, one part stood out to me when I first read your comment. You pointed out that, “Despite continued corporate and monied control of EU (and US, et alia) political processes, however, “Germany + 13 Other Countries [Have Said] No to Glyphosate.”” That’s good to hear.

          Still, it’s odd for the very reason that the government agency (Federal Institute for Risk Assessment) commissioned by the EU is German, and it is they who created the corporatist propaganda. This indicates a divide within the German government, a struggle for power. One could take that as a positive sign, as often in the past it felt like there was very little (effective) struggle at all against corporate takeover, specifically in the halls of power.

          Corporations will attempt to take power of any and all institutions of power, local and distant, centralized and decentralized, public and private. They were effective in doing this in the past and still seem to be rather successful at least in countries like the US. Even in local elections, dark money often from corporations plays an outsized role in funding campaigns. And only a few places have begun to restrict this activity. Dark money still rules.

          The pushback can feel like too little too late. We are far into what feels like the endgame, with numerous catastrophes looming on the horizon: another great depression, world war III (possibly nuclear or worse), climate change, mass extinction, etc. The time to push for democratic reforms is before and not after catastrophe. Once catastrophe hits, the calls for authoritarianism will be irresistable if strong democratic culture, institutions, and processes aren’t already in place.

          • Too much attention is paid by mainstream media (et al) to what is going on in Washington at any given time to effectively gauge what is actually happening at all other scales and in all other locales. Despite Trump’s attempt at pulling out of the Paris agreement, for example, a number of cities, states, businesses and, even, religious organizations announced their pledges to stay in accord with it, regardless.

            The problem there, of course, is that they still expect a “technical” shift in focus and investment will be enough and require no sacrifice whatsoever — especially the degree of sacrifice it would actually take to make the transition to a regenerative, global community, as Heinberg, et al, has warned. But — hey — if that’s the only communication hurdle left to cross on that front, we actually may be doing better than we think.

            The pushback can feel like too little too late.

            It can, can’t it? We have to remember, though, that the timescale we experience is to the Cosmos much like the amoeba’s to the Red Wood’s. Whether time actually moves faster and slower at different scales or we simply experience time differently at different scales is beside the point, as far as I’m concerned. Anyone who states authoritarianly (yes, “authoritarianly” is now a word) that we don’t have enough time or — especially — speaks the word, “inevitable” (especially in conjunction with the phrase “at this point”), I have no patience for anymore. The simple fact is: We don’t know. Why it is we can’t just say, “I don’t know,” when appropriate to do so is quite beyond me. : )

          • When I used the word ‘inevitable’, I tend to do so with qualification. I’ll typically say “near inevitable” to point to something that is highly probable, according to known data and historical precedents.

            The only time I’ll speak of unqualified inevitability is when something essentially has already begun and we are well into the process of its development: climate change, mass extinction, etc. Or I’ll sometimes use it to speak of what appears to be universal truths, such as change happens whether or not we like it. And so without reform to stop our problems from getting worse, change will happen in some other way — a seemingly safe assumption to make as we know of no counter-example of change not happening.

            Of course, no matter the law of gravity, sometimes one may throw a rock into the air and it won’t come back down. Maybe an eagle flying by randomly decides to grab it and carry it off. Nonetheless, such interventions are rare. It’s like asserting that, if I don’t eat, I’ll get hungry. That isn’t always true as their are physiological conditions that can cause loss of appetite. But once again, this exception doesn’t apply to the vast majority. If you want to avoid hunger, you’d be wise to eat.

            That doesn’t lessen the point your making, though. In ideological realism, it holds such sway over the mind because it is declared and/or acted upon with certainty. It’s the power of make-believe. Then again, that same power can be used to other ends. It doesn’t always matter what is true.

            For example, much of MLK’s inspiring words were ‘objectively’ bullshit in that his beliefs about humanity and society weren’t scientifically verifiable. But it was because he believed them and made others believe them that change followed. There was often a sense of inevitability to the vision of MLK (he often quoted or paraphrased the American Transcendentalist and Unitarian minister Theodore Parker, as did Abraham Lincoln before him): “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice”. It’s the bullshit of ‘inevitability’ to give voice to the authority of moral force. Jaynesian authorization always requires one variety of bullshit or another, and this goes deep into the human psyche.

            Those who cause change, for good or ill, rarely admit that they don’t know. It reminds me of the social science research done on pessimists and optimists. The former are more accurate about present reality, including more accurate in assessment of themselves. But the latter, in being more deluded, are more capable of changing present conditions to achieve different future results. Accurate statements can lead to a stagnant worldview. Still, it’s important to have pessimists who are willing and able to state things as they are — it’s an ability to rarely valued.

            Admittedly, I’m biased toward valuing pessimistic realism, as it is one of my own talents. No one is going to mistake me for MLK. But I try to give credit to those with other talents. Reading Harry Frankfurt’s “On Bullshit” has helped me attain some sense of balance. After a long analysis, he concludes that bullshit is insincere and sincerity is bullshit. They are an inseparable dynamic, not identical to another dynamic of truth and lies.

            https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2017/01/15/on-truth-and-bullshit/

            “If all bullshit was eliminated and all further bullshit made impossible, what would be left of our humanity? Maybe our very definition of truth is dependent on bullshit, both as a contrast and an impetus. Without bullshit, we might no longer be able to imagine new truths. But such imagination, if not serving greater understanding, is of uncertain value and potentially dangerous to society. For good or ill, the philosopher, sometimes obtuse and detached, and the artist, sometimes full of bullshit, are the twin representatives of civilization as we know it.”

          • When I use the word ‘inevitable’….

            I was thinking more along the lines of those whose who claim social (not necessarily “societal” or “civilizational” — i.e. “The Megamachine” — but complete social) collapse is “inevitable” for whatever reason. It’s generally because they have a depressingly low estimation of human potential to begin with. I seriously have no patience left for that. As for the Megamachine…. Well, the fact that it’s flying apart at the rivets (at least, in the sense of “decentralization”) is not necessarily a bad thing.

          • I must admit that I’m fond of the attitude of knowing what one doesn’t know, as self-aware ignorance. I’ve been known on occasion to openly state my ignorance about something. And I’ve dedicated a number of posts to ignorance — to my own ignorance, to the ignorance of this society in particular, to the ignorance of humanity in general, and to the state of ignorance itself (including as a specific scholarly field of study, agnotology). As you’re probably familiar, I regularly return to the strange insight of how we humans so easily know something while simultaneously not knowing it.

            That doesn’t stop me from admiring those who have the confidence of conviction, as I’ve always been lacking in that department. It wasn’t for a lack of trying that I lost my sense of faith. It was a defect of personality because ever since childhood I could never stop asking questions. I’ve so often wished I could’ve been a contented person who fit in with the crowd; alas, that was not my fate. My pessimistic realism for damn sure is not a personal achievement, but I did earn it honestly through much failure. Nonetheless, I can’t quite shake loose the idealistic religion I was raised in nor my parents’ conservative morality. That is to say I’m internally conflicted. Not to claim that makes me balanced, far from that. I’m not sure where that leaves me. Whatever else it might mean, it gives me a tendency of looking at both sides.

            We are in a ‘crises’ and probably about to enter a far worse one. Yet all of human existence has been defined by the switching between periods of stability and periods of existential threat. A drying out period originally forced hominids out onto the dry savanna where there were long periods of starvation, which caused our development of thriving through ketosis. Then with the rise of humans, there was the ice ages that in Eurasia meant immense terrain of icy dead zones and in Africa meant droughts and raging wildfires. After that, the megafauna that allowed humans to survive and thrive all went extinct and so forced humans to hunt smaller game and eat more plants, but this was followed by a wet period that suddenly made food more available and allowed humans to begin to settle down millennia before agriculture. During this extensive period of early evolution, humans twice reached a bottleneck where in one case all humans now descend from one woman and in another case from one man (an Adam and Eve separated by a great distance of time).

            That was just the beginning of our troubles. Settling down helped us develop agriculture and immediately that crippled human health with brain size and stature having dropped such that modern humans on average have yet to regain those losses. The severe problems of agriculture forced humans to develop civilization to compensate for such an undependable food source by finding ways to store enough grain to last for years and to trade with other civilizations during periods of need. Still, this ended up magnifying crises even further — unlike hunter-gatherers, civilizations couldn’t simply pick up their stuff and move on. Crises became existential threats of mass death and total collapse.

            But each collapse allowed for the possibility of creating something new, sometimes resulting in technological innovations and even revolutionary transformations of society. The collapse of the Bronze Age bicameralism set the stage for Axial Age consciousness and all that followed from it. A main cause of that transition seems to have been environmental crises over several centuries: volcanoes, earthquakes, tidal waves, superstorms, floods, droughts, famine, refugee crises, marauders, etc (see 1177 BC by Eric Cline). Likewise, the Little Ice Age (1400-1850) culminated in what has been called the 17th century “General Crisis” experienced in numerous parts of the world: Thirty Years’ War, English Civil Wars, French Fronde Revolt, revolts against the Spanish Monarchy, dynastic instability in the Ottoman Empire, violent dynastic change in China, etc. Once again, a period of creativity followed with the Enlightenment Age, the Early Modern Revolutionary Period, Industrialization, and much else (see Nature’s Mutiny by Philipp Blom).

            One might even call ‘inevitable’ this cycle of crisis and change. If you wait long enough, the next stage in the cycle will come back around (the original astrological meaning of ‘revolution’). Are we decades or centuries from environmental chaos? I’d guess closer to the former and recent scientific reports agree with that dire forecast. But even delayed, it’s hard to imagine how we’d avoid this eventual fate. And this time around might be spectacularly more disastrous because of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons and other technologies. At the same time, if manage to not go extinct or have our civilization entirely collapse, we might find that necessity is the mother of invention and somehow manage to pull together a radically different society. Anything is theoretically possible and it is anyone’s guess about probability. So, yes, there is much we don’t know, even as patterns repeat.

            If I were warrant a guess, considering we are in the middle of the largest mass extinction in hominid evolution, I suspect we are closer to the Bronze Age collapse than to the Little Ice Age (and quite likely far worse). Assuming survival of the species, it could take millennia for civilization to recover. As for ecosystems, they can take millions of years to re-stabilize. It could be a rough patch for the foreseeable future, and that might turn out to be a severe understatement. I feel fairly confident that the challenge we face won’t be a failure of overstatement.

  2. Here is an example of the dynamic going on right now. It deals with another area of corporate dominance, in this case the ‘mainstream’ media.

    Newsweek decided to do a piece critical of the carnivore diet. And the writer they assigned it to normally writes about video games and pop culture. Unsurprisingly, written by someone with no knowledge or expertise, the article was predictably misinformed. Every single comment in the comments section was critical (the same in the comments of Nina Teicholz’s tweet), including comments by doctors and other experts.

    It’s less to do with a specific diet. This same kind of response is seen toward every variety of low-carb diet, whether plant-based paleo or plant-free carnivore, whether high-(healthy)fat or moderate, whether ketogenic or not. The reason is that there is no way to have a low-carb diet while maintaining large profits for the present model of the big biz food system of heavily-subsidized, chemical-drenched, and genetically-modified surplus grains as used to produce shelf-stable processed foods.

    This demonstrates how the change is coming from below. In reaction, the self-proclaimed authority figures in the mainstream are trying to enforce dietary conformity. I suspect the fact that so many people are questioning, doubting, and experimenting is precisely the reason elites all of a sudden are pushing even harder for basically the old views they’ve been pushing for decades. They sense the respect for their position is slipping and are in damage control mode.

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