6 October 2020 — American Herald Tribune
Mohsen Abdelmoumen: We are on the eve of the American presidential elections. Don’t you think that the USA has never been as divided as it is today?
John Stauber: The American Empire is collapsing from within. The huge divisions – rich versus the rest of us, white versus colored, young versus old, religious extremists versus rational thinkers, xenophobes versus internationalists, urban versus rural, elite versus populist, radical versus reactionary, etc. – have never been so pronounced. This is the result of decades of the nation falling apart, especially since the 1960s and the horrific American war in Vietnam.
I remember well the period of 1965 to 1973 when the United States was rocked by riots across America and scores of Blacks were gunned down by armed National Guard amid burning urban centers. At the same time hundreds of thousands of 19-year-old male draftees, mostly poor and disproportionally non-white, were being sent to Vietnam and killed millions of Vietnamese peasants in genocidal bombings, napalming and chemical warfare, such that the military grunts themselves revolted against that bipartisan horror. The Civil Rights, Peace, Social Justice, Feminist, Ecology and Counter-Culture movements grew strong and united millions of young Americans in activism against their parents’ and grandparents’ racist policies, stifling conformity to corporate America, destruction of the natural world and Cold War militarism. In response the US unleashed its police and secret police, gunning down Black Panthers, and infiltrating and destroying movements via its Cointelpro program.
The divisions of that period were the roots of today’s. Indeed, each and every cause of the upheavals of half a century ago is greater now. The apocalyptic visions of 1960s Left economists, science fiction seers, ecologists and anti-war activists are now our daily reality. No matter the result of the 2020 election, the divisions will worsen because these crises will worsen. We are living in a period that appears equatable with the strife and turmoil, disruption and suffering, of the Great Depression and World War II, and it’s getting worse, now threatening the biosphere itself.
As divided as America is, it will become even more so in the months and years ahead because neither the election of Biden nor the re-election of Trump will be uniting. Both the Democrats and the Republicans are girding for a political struggle that will likely have the election winner undetermined on November 3rd, and a protracted fight between the Trumpists and the Biden forces in the courts and streets seems guaranteed. Whichever is sworn in as President in January 2021 will be rejected as illegitimate by the other’s followers.
Corporate capitalism over the past half century has created an oligarchy that has rotted away the American economy and is shattering Earth’s ability to sustainably support us. Racism and racial hatreds have always been endemic to America, but when the pieces of the economic pie get smaller and smaller for everyone there is amplification of racial fears and hatreds. These divisions serve to prevent people from focusing on the oligarchic system itself and uniting to bring it down and replace it with one that serves people and the planet.
Both Parties are owned by and beholden to the corporate elite who rule America, both serve Wall Street and the American military industrial empire, and together they squash any party that dare question or oppose corporate capitalism. They are aided by their media corporations, the major propaganda arm of the ruling elite and promoter of the capitalist economy.
It’s a simplistic but highly effective system of control and looting, and most Americans feel helpless and thus respond by not voting. Trump voters hate the Democrats, and Democrat voters hate the GOP, and the super-rich smirk as their control and power increases whoever wins. The COVID pandemic has been an injection of steroids into these divisions, collapsing small businesses and throwing tens of millions of working and middle class people into an economic and psychic depression. For the elite the pandemic has facilitated a massive theft and looting as they have gobbled up more and more control and wealth from both the governmental and private sector.
Isn’t Trump an isolated president when we see how he has dismissed his advisors since his investiture?
As you know, I could foresee Trump beating Hillary Clinton, especially living here in the US Midwest in a battleground swing state which he won to cement his victory. The depths of his extreme depravity, narcissism, bigotry, xenophobia and hubris were perhaps unimaginable. The most alarming aspect is that he stands a chance of winning re-election again, losing the popular vote of course, but cobbling together enough states to take the Electoral College. Most of his older, white male base has remained loyal to him.
There has never been an American politician as isolated as Donald Trump except for Nixon in his final days, but it doesn’t seem to matter as long as the GOP politicians and GOP dominated judiciary stand with him, and the military and national security state rally around him. He can always bring new toadies in to replace the ones he kicks out or burns out.
How do you explain that a great country like the United States could only find “Crazy Joe” as an alternative to Donald Trump?
16 years ago I co-wrote a book titled “Banana Republicans” that described how the reactionary Republican Party managed to game the system to dominate the Democrats and control so much power in America. Remember, the Democrats aren’t really an opposition party anyway, since both parties serve the corporate oligarchs who fund and own them. The Democrats’ ineptness and failure to fight effectively against the Republicans stems from the fact that ultimately both serve Wall Street, the military Empire, and the capitalist system that is impoverishing people and Nature and enriching a tiny elite.
The only thing that annoys those who control the Democrats more than losing an election, is the idea that the progressive left would actually gain power within their Party. They want Bernie Sanders to be with them, in other words, to bring in votes, but they will never be with Bernie Sanders. The progressives are sheepherders for votes and window dressing for their party, they will never control it. When Sanders appeared to be emerging as the winner of the primary elections, Obama and the Clintons worked behind the scenes to undercut him and swing his opponents to Biden, which apparently was easy to do. Sanders is not a fighter, he caved to their tactics like some over the hill boxer taking a dive.
Why has the American Left never been able to be an alternative to the mammoth parties that are the Republicans and the Democrats?
The so-called Old Left was driven out of the Democratic Party in the 1940s and 1950s. The New Left of the 1960s and 1970s never established itself in the Democratic Party which detested it and supported the war on Vietnam. 1972’s McGovern Campaign was the closest the Left came to power within the Democrats. When the far Right seized power in the Reagan Revolution of 1980, the response of the Bill and Hillary Clinton wing was to mimic them and fully embrace global American capitalism.
The foundation-funded NGOs and the billionaire Democrats of the Democracy Alliance coopt young radicals into supporting the Democratic Party. The 2000 campaign of Ralph Nader and the 2016 and 2020 primary campaigns of Bernie Sanders showed some life for a Left in politics, but ultimately the Democrats buy up or repress any effort to create a socialist independent Party. Their progressives appear fully committed to the two-party Oligarchy and their role in it as ineffective reformers. Each of the 50 states has different and difficult rules for getting on the ballot which makes it easy to prevent a national Party from arising, especially since to be visible in political campaigns requires massive amounts of money.
Trump has incited such hatred from both Democrats and Republicans that the neocons like Bill Kristol are united with the Leftists like Chomsky and Sanders in fighting against what is openly labeled an attempted fascist theft by Trump of the 2020 election. Clearly the corporate oligarchy much prefers Biden over the crazed autocrat Trump, but it can live four more years with Trump, too.
The bottomline is that the two party oligarchy has made it all but impossible for a Left to arise, and the Democrats’ progressives are fine with that because they foolishly believe that someday they will control the Democratic Party. The professional leadership of the progressives make six figure salaries working in millionaire and billionaire funded NGOs, or in politics or the media. The successful cooptation of young leaders by the Democrats and their funders has helped ensure that no strong independent party can rise at the national level.
In your opinion, what good are elections in the United States when the real decision-makers are the oligarchy that rules the United States and the world?
I have come to the conclusion that elections primarily exist to provide the appearance of democracy while thwarting real democracy. They divide people into one of two capitalist-driven political business operations, the Democrats or the Republicans. Elections result in billions being poured into corporate media to purchase paid propaganda, and the media corporations make sure that only the oligarchy’s two Parties receive any positive coverage. Elections are essential to continued social and political control by the corporate elite through their system of two party oligarchy. A majority of voters don’t vote, probably because they see the process as not serving their interests, but there is no unity of opinion and certainly no movement-building among non-voters at this time.
Can we speak of democracy and democratic elections in today’s America when we know the weight of the different lobbies that are the military-industrial complex, big pharma, etc.?
Corporate lobbyists are the government, essentially. The lobbyists and PR hacks who are paid millions to write laws and funnel campaign money to politicians are mostly former politicians, their aids, government bureaucrats, retired military officers and PR people hired for the job of lobbying. They are paid much, much more money for this than they were ever paid in government jobs. It is impossible to separate the elected politicians, the government agencies, the judges, the lobbyists, the corporate rich, and the corporate media, they are all mutually benefitting cogs in the machine that rules and runs America’s political system on behalf of the super rich. Democracy it is not, but it goes to great lengths with the help of the media to convince the public that it is their government, not the oligarchy’s.
The United States continues its policy of imperialist interference in countries by fomenting coups, supporting dictators like Bolsonaro or thugs like Guaido. In your opinion, when will the United States stop interfering in the affairs of sovereign states?
The United States will never stop its bipartisan interfering in the affairs of other countries, it is essential to the global corporate empire to keep doing so, to control resources and to destroy successful examples of people rising up against corporate hegemony. The American warfare state exploits patriotism and nationalism to further control the populace, and America’s wars are hyped and sold by corporate media and become nationalist circuses and control mechanisms for domestic politics.
In your opinion, isn’t there a need to have a multipolar world free of US hegemony?
Indeed, that would be refreshing, yes.
How do you explain the weight of Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and advisor, who is the architect of Israel’s standardization with certain Arab countries and the designer of the “deal of the century”?
From the start, Trump turned to his immediate family to be his closest and most trusted operators and representatives, like some episode of The Godfather. Kushner, like Trump, is not a politician but a rich, crude and powerful elitist. Support for the government of Israel is sacred to both the Democrats and Republicans, and Kushner and Trump have not run into much Democratic criticism in their wheeling and dealing with Israel, the nation that manipulates and affects US politics more than any other.
According to OXFAM, between 1990 and 2015, the richest 10% of the world’s population were responsible for 52% of cumulative CO2 emissions and the richest 1% are responsible for twice as many emissions as the poorest half of humanity. How do you analyze the fact that the richest 1% of the world’s population pollute more than the rest of humanity? Don’t you think it is urgent to overcome this deadly capitalist system?
The early 21st century is the apex so far of industrial capitalism, funneling more and more of the world’s natural and economic wealth to a tiny percentage of maximum consumers who gobble it up. The Earth clearly cannot afford the rich, and it is beyond urgent that we abolish this system of irresponsible consumption destroying people and the planet. Unfortunately, corporate advertising and PR propaganda has deeply seeded the belief that the highest human goal, the guarantee of our happiness, is maximum individual consumption; this cultivated greed has the masses looking to the super rich as their ideal, thus coveting multiple homes, cars, gadgets, and the hedonistic lifestyle of the rich and famous they see on big and small screens. We are seeing how this capitalist propaganda – that greedy consumption is the highest good – is resulting in the collapse of the climate and the Earth’s ecosystems, as well as the systemic poisoning of our water, air and our own bodies with toxins.
Is it an inevitability for humanity to live under a capitalist system that constantly feeds on imperialist wars? How do you explain the exponential increase in inequality in the world?
Corporate capitalism is the system that has come to dominate, control and define the world, and its engine is revving faster and faster as the interlocked crises of poverty, war and environmental destruction worsen. It is very difficult to see how humanity turns this around, since governments now are controlled by a rich ruling elite that benefits from this destruction and is adept at propaganda and both outright and covert thuggery to prevent revolutionary change.
Donald Trump failed miserably in managing the Covid-19 crisis while Cuba succeeded and even helped other countries by sending medical teams around the world. Don’t you think that Trump’s failure will influence the result of the elections? And how do you explain that a superpower like the United States is failing to manage this pandemic?
One would expect that the hundreds of thousands of deaths, a number growing larger by the hour still, would cause Americans to blame Trump and reject him. However, the state of the American divide and psyche is such that Covid-19 is viewed through politics. Trump labeled the pandemic both a hoax and also a deadly tactic from China; he has suggested a deliberate release of a killer virus. Which is it? It is neither, and those two assertions are a contradiction, but in the fascist thinking of Trump it’s all about circus and emotion and anti-science xenophobia, and his huge cult thrives on such idiocy. While Trump made no serious attempt to manage the crisis in January and February when it was still possible, the Democrats too dropped the ball, consumed like Trump by election year politics, their impeachment charade. They too ignored what was obvious in January to many of us, that Covid-19 would become a global pandemic.
America’s 50 states function like separate nations in many important ways, and devoid of national leadership it has been up to each state to try and manage the pandemic, and many have followed Trump’s ignorant lead in decrying mask-wearing and blaming foreigners for infecting America. Where I live in the Midwest you see who supports Trump and who doesn’t by whether they wear a mask. Half don’t, even though the pandemic is the worst here at this time.
Trump’s branding of the pandemic as a hoax, his derisive refusal to wear masks, his insistence that it would just go away, his efforts to insinuate that this “China virus” was somehow an attack on the US, all reveal his sociopathic narcissism. He saw Covid-19 as a threat to his re-election campaign, something to manage politically but not scientifically. Amazingly, as with seemingly all issues, his cultish base has followed his lead. Rationally one would expect that Covid-19 alone, his bungling of it, would cause him to lose the election. However, Trump consistently defeats conventional logic, and how it plays out is a guess.
Covid-19 has plunged the poor, working and middle classes into desperate economic collapse that is just beginning to be felt, but that impact too may wash off him as he heightens his appeal to race and nationalism to whip up his base in the dozen or so contested states that will determine if Trumpism, like the pandemic itself, grows in the years ahead.
2020 has been a very bleak year in America, and is promising to get worse. If Trump does lose the election and is removed from office, the Democrats have no policies to address these interlinked crises, and the Dems will continue to wage foreign interventions while pursuing the same neoliberal economic policies that thwart national health care, keep the poor down, defund the working class, and funnel most money to the super rich. The reform minded progressives like Sanders or AOC have no real power in their party, but they will help keep down the rise of any new populist Left party that would unite Americans against the capitalist system dragging us along on its economic and environmental death trip.
Now Trump has Covid and the election chaos has heightened. What do you see happening as a result?
The inevitable was announced October 1, Trump himself has contracted Covid, as has his wife, campaign manager, press secretary and dozens of staff and top Republicans, all tied to a “super-spreader” event at the White House. After just 3 nights in a government hospital Trump insisted on going home to the White House the evening of October 5, downplaying the seriousness of Covid still, and still refusing to wear a mask. Clearly, he has become a very desperate candidate, and he is trying to macho his way through this personal and political crisis, playing as usual to his rabid cult base, wanting to appear some sort of superman in the face of the pandemic. His reckless behavior endangers his followers and especially those closest to him, but he clearly doesn’t care about infecting others. How it will all play out in the weeks left to Election Day on November 3rd is anyone’s guess, we will all see.
Interview realized by Mohsen Abdelmoumen
Who is John Stauber?
John Stauber is a US citizen who spent 40 years as an independent activist and investigative writer before retiring. He has co-authored six books exposing hidden corporate and government propaganda including the bestsellers Toxic Sludge Is Good for You (1995), Trust Us We’re Experts (2001) and Weapons of Mass Deception (2003).
Mohsen Abdelmoumen is an independent Algerian journalist. He wrote in several Algerian newspapers such as Alger Républicain and in different sites of the alternative press.