John Whitehead's Commentary
The Election Has Been Hacked: The Dismal Reality of Having No Real Electoral Choices
“Free election of masters does not abolish the masters or the slaves.” ― Herbert Marcuse
The FBI is worried: foreign hackers have broken into two state election databases.
The Department of Homeland Security is worried: the nation’s voting system needs greater protection against cyberattacks.
I, on the other hand, am not overly worried: after all, the voting booths have already been hacked by a political elite comprised of Republicans and Democrats who are determined to retain power at all costs.
The outcome is a foregone conclusion: the police state will win and “we the people” will lose.
The damage has already been done.
The DHS, which has offered to help “secure” the nation’s elections, has already helped to lock down the nation.
Remember, the DHS is the agency that ushered in the domestic use of surveillance drones, expanded the reach of fusion centers, stockpiled an alarming amount of ammunition, urged Americans to become snitches through a “see something, say something” campaign, oversaw the fumbling antics of TSA agents everywhere, militarized the nation’s police, spied on activists and veterans, distributed license plate readers and cell phone trackers to law enforcement agencies, contracted to build detention camps, carried out military drills and lockdowns in American cities, conducted virtual strip searches of airline passengers, established Constitution-free border zones, funded city-wide surveillance cameras, and generally turned our republic into a police state.
So, no, I’m not falling for the government’s scare tactics about Russian hackers.
I’m not losing a night’s sleep over the thought that this election might by any more rigged than it already is.
And I’m not holding my breath in the hopes that the winner of this year’s particular popularity contest will save us from government surveillance, weaponized drones, militarized police, endless wars, SWAT team raids, red light cameras, asset forfeiture schemes, overcriminalization, profit-driven private prisons, graft and corruption, or any of the other evils that masquerade as official government business these days.
What I’ve come to realize is that Americans want to engage in the reassurance ritual of voting.
They want to believe that politics matter.
They want to be persuaded that there’s a difference between the Republicans and Democrats (there’s not).
They will swear that Barack Obama has been an improvement on George W. Bush (he has not).
They are convinced that Hillary Clinton’s values are different from Donald Trump’s (with both of them, money talks).
Most of all, they want to buy into the fantasy that when we elect a president, we’re getting someone who truly represents “we the people” rather than the corporate state (in fact, in the oligarchy that is the American police state, an elite group of wealthy donors is calling the shots).
The sad truth is that it doesn’t matter who wins the White House, because they all work for the same boss: Corporate America. Understanding this, many corporations hedge their bets on who will win the White House by splitting their donations between Democratic and Republican candidates.
Politics is a game, a joke, a hustle, a con, a distraction, a spectacle, a sport, and for many devout Americans, a religion. It is a political illusion aimed at persuading the citizenry that we are free, that our vote counts, and that we actually have some control over the government when in fact, we are prisoners of a police state.
In other words, it’s a sophisticated ruse aimed at keeping us divided and fighting over two parties whose priorities are exactly the same so that we don’t join forces and do what the Declaration of Independence suggests, which is to throw the whole lot out and start over.
It’s no secret that both parties support endless war, engage in out-of-control spending, ignore the citizenry’s basic rights, have no respect for the rule of law, are bought and paid for by Big Business, care most about their own power, and have a long record of expanding government and shrinking liberty. Most of all, both parties enjoy an intimate, incestuous history with each other and with the moneyed elite that rule this country.
Despite the jabs the candidates volley at each other for the benefit of the cameras, they’re a relatively chummy bunch away from the spotlight. Moreover, despite Congress’ so-called political gridlock, our elected officials seem to have no trouble finding common ground when it’s time to collectively kowtow to the megacorporations, lobbyists, defense contractors and other special interest groups to whom they have pledged their true allegiance.
So don’t be fooled by the smear campaigns and name-calling or drawn into their politics of hate. They’re just useful tactics that have been proven to engage voters and increase voter turnout while keeping the citizenry at each other’s throats.
We’re in trouble, folks.
We are living in a fantasy world carefully crafted to resemble a representative democracy.
It used to be that the cogs, wheels and gear shifts in our government machinery worked to keep our republic running smoothly. However, without our fully realizing it, the mechanism has changed. Its purpose is no longer to keep our republic running smoothly. To the contrary, this particular contraption’s purpose is to keep the corporate police state in power. Its various parts are already a corrupt part of the whole.
Just consider how insidious, incestuous and beholden to the corporate elite the various “parts” of the mechanism have become.
Congress. Perhaps the most notorious offenders and most obvious culprits in the creation of the corporate-state, Congress has proven itself to be both inept and avaricious, oblivious champions of an authoritarian system that is systematically dismantling their constituents’ fundamental rights. Long before they’re elected, Congressmen are trained to dance to the tune of their wealthy benefactors, so much so that they spend two-thirds of their time in office raising money. As Reuters reports, “For many lawmakers, the daily routine in Washington involves fundraising as much as legislating. The culture of nonstop political campaigning shapes the rhythms of daily life in Congress, as well as the landscape around the Capitol. It also means that lawmakers often spend more time listening to the concerns of the wealthy than anyone else.”
The President. What Americans want in a president and what they need are two very different things. The making of a popular president is an exercise in branding, marketing and creating alternate realities for the consumer—a.k.a., the citizenry—that allows them to buy into a fantasy about life in America that is utterly divorced from our increasingly grim reality. Take President Obama, for instance, who now enjoys greater popularity than any previous president, including the beloved Ronald Reagan. This is a president who got elected by campaigning against war, torture, surveillance only to make them hallmarks of his presidency, and yet somehow these “indiscretions” are overlooked and forgiven as long as he presents a jocular, hip façade: slow-jamming the news with Jimmy Fallon, reading mean tweets with Jimmy Kimmel, singing, dancing and being cool. In other words, to be a successful president, it doesn’t matter whether you keep your campaign promises, sell access to the Lincoln Bedroom, or march in lockstep with the Corporate State as long as you keep the feel-good vibes flowing.
The Supreme Court. The U.S. Supreme Court—once the last refuge of justice, the one governmental body really capable of rolling back the slowly emerging tyranny enveloping America—has instead become the champion of the American police state, absolving government and corporate officials of their crimes while relentlessly punishing the average American for exercising his or her rights. Like the rest of the government, the Court has routinely prioritized profit, security, and convenience over the basic rights of the citizenry. Indeed, law professor Erwin Chemerinsky makes a compelling case that the Supreme Court, whose “justices have overwhelmingly come from positions of privilege,” almost unerringly throughout its history sides with the wealthy, the privileged, and the powerful.
The Media. Of course, this triumvirate of total control would be completely ineffective without a propaganda machine provided by the world’s largest corporations. Besides shoveling drivel down our throats at every possible moment, the so-called news agencies which are supposed to act as bulwarks against government propaganda have instead become the mouthpieces of the state. The pundits which pollute our airwaves are at best court jesters and at worst propagandists for the false reality created by the American government. When you have internet and media giants such as Google, NBC Universal, News Corporation, Turner Broadcasting, Thomson Reuters, Comcast, Time Warner, Viacom, Public Radio International and The Washington Post Company donating to the Clinton Foundation, you no longer have an independent media—what we used to refer to as the “fourth estate”—that can be trusted to hold the government accountable.
The American People. “We the people” now belong to a permanent underclass in America. It doesn’t matter what you call us—chattel, slaves, worker bees, drones, it’s all the same—what matters is that we are expected to march in lockstep with and submit to the will of the state in all matters, public and private. Through our complicity in matters large and small, we have allowed an out-of-control corporate-state apparatus to take over every element of American society.
We’re playing against a stacked deck.
The game is rigged, and “we the people” keep getting dealt the same losing hand. The people dealing the cards—the politicians, the corporations, the judges, the prosecutors, the police, the bureaucrats, the military, the media, etc.—have only one prevailing concern, and that is to maintain their power and control over the citizenry, while milking us of our money and possessions.
It really doesn’t matter what you call them—Republicans, Democrats, the 1%, the elite, the controllers, the masterminds, the shadow government, the police state, the surveillance state, the military industrial complex—so long as you understand that while they are dealing the cards, the deck will always be stacked in their favor.
As I make clear in my book, Battlefield America: The War on the American People, our failure to remain informed about what is taking place in our government, to know and exercise our rights, to vocally protest, to demand accountability on the part of our government representatives, and at a minimum to care about the plight of our fellow Americans has been our downfall.
Now we find ourselves once again caught up in the spectacle of another presidential election, and once again the majority of Americans are acting as if this election will make a difference and bring about change. As if the new boss will be different from the old boss.
When in doubt, just remember what the astute commentator George Carlin had to say about the matter:
The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don’t. You have no choice. You have owners. They own you. They own everything. They own all the important land. They own and control the corporations. They’ve long since bought and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the state houses, the city halls. They got the judges in their back pockets and they own all the big media companies, so they control just about all of the news and information you get to hear. They got you by the balls. They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying. Lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want. They want more for themselves and less for everybody else, but I’ll tell you what they don’t want. They don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well-informed, well-educated people capable of critical thinking. They’re not interested in that. That doesn’t help them. That’s against their interests.
They want obedient workers. Obedient workers, people who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork…. It’s a big club and you ain't in it. You and I are not in the big club. ...The table is tilted, folks. The game is rigged and nobody seems to notice…. Nobody seems to care. That’s what the owners count on…. It’s called the American Dream, 'cause you have to be asleep to believe it.