With Jair Bolsonaro’s victory in Brazil’s presidential election at the weekend, the doom-mongers among western elites are out in force once again. His success, like Donald Trump’s, has confirmed a long-held prejudice: that the people cannot be trusted; that, when empowered, they behave like a mob driven by primitive urges; that the unwashed masses now threaten to bring down the carefully constructed walls of civilisation.
It is, no doubt true, that the electorate in many so-called democratic countries are sickened, angry and disheartened by the establishment political figures who are supposed to represent their interests, but fail to do so. And it is also true that rich and wealthy individuals and corporations prefer a right wing fascist to be in power, over a genuine socialist. But to express your anger and disgust with the the status quo by voting for a man like Bolsonaro or Trump, who are the poster boys for the root cause of voter rage and disgust, is not the act of mobs driven by primitive urges, or the undermining of left wing leaning figures like Corbyn and Sanders…its just plain moronic. Why is it that commentators like Jonathan Cook just can’t bring themselves to accept this obvious third and crucial part of the equation… that the majority of the electorate are often ignorant and ill informed, and make decisions based on emotional self-centered reasons, not rational ones.
At some certain point, reading articles about assigned responsibility gets to feel like watching strong winds from within a guarded study. It’s not that the better authors do not describe well the whipping of the branches; it’s that one finds oneself still trying to deduce the wind. Cook does well to give us something of the wind here, but still leaves us to chart the highs and lows and assemble a concept of the storm front with very few clues. One could read such articles, feel perhaps fairly informed, and imagine that the newspapers and news stations and radio stations worked mostly for themselves as free actors.
Of course there is an element of that. But just like in a weather system, the causes behind a Bolsonario event are distributed across the entire complex and self-regulating evolving system.
In some sense, I suppose we all know all that. But somehow, time after time, judgments get made that our calculations are somehow of more use to us if we ignore it. We appear fairly hard-wired to regard most of our surroundings as normal, the landscape, or the way the world works. But nothing actually is. We’re all in the same stew, and everything that happens happens at once, with all dismissed causes fully operational.
In some part, this is inevitable. None of use can calculate all this. But we can put something of what we have already observed of the rest of this back in the mix and kick the can down the road a few meters further.
We know that Bolsonario has neoliberal-style business connections within the international finance community, and that American and likely other NATO-group intelligence and business concerns have returned to quell what we addressed a few years ago as “the rise of the Southern cone”–of South America and Latin America in general. Over the years, this has involved a successful coup in Honduras, coup attempts and prolonged meddling in Venezuela, repeated threats against Ecuador over Julian Assange, the arming of contrabandistas and narcotraficantes through the government in Mexico, and presumably similar ongoing business operations elsewhere.
Of course, all of this goes with the prolonged support and collusion of commercial mass media in the US and in other countries involved, however half-witted and unselfaware such collusion may be in any given individual case. As in other corporations, people in news empires are assigned different sorts of knowledge according to the particular tasks expected of them. This includes even managers and owners, though the nature of control varies considerably by position.
Our commercial media now fail us almost completely. It is not at all meaningless to describe this failure as moral: there are individuals involved; any social contract that many of us would have recognized as late as 1990 is redundantly broken. But the problem in this, as happens over and over again, is systemic. A commercial news media cannot exist apart from its ties to power, and specifically to the sort of corrupt power that sees an interest in manipulating public opinion rather than in resolving public concerns.
Whatever may happen within a few years, for the moment the worthy side of any battle for hearts and minds happens out here on the Net, in the margins not yet taken by Google excluding your searches, large cable laying outfits filtering out content producers that do not pay them, and your ISP not filtering content and sites at the behest of content owners who do.
In the days of muskets and rifles, revolutions were fought largely by militia. If there is to be a popular side in an information war, it must be fought largely by amateurs in popular discourse. The circumstances that prevent news corporations from producing news are as deep as corporate structure, and will not likely change in any large way before that structure does. A lot of things will strike us or our children deeply before then.
Rest assured some of these very same journalists, those suggesting Social Media the root of all ills even as they attack Jeremy Corbyn , are on that list of “concerned Journalists” writing missives as to how Donald Trump a threat to “the Free Press”
Western government’s outrage at the Saudi Arabian
Khashoggi “mistake” is transparently hypocritical, when not
outright disgustingly vulgar (Trump); by refusing to admit its connivance in the
exiling of the truest of journalists: Julian Assange and Ed Snowden.
And J. Cook is a prime example of authentic journalists being the moral compass so sorely needed today.
Corporate media and their career journalists bone saw to death the reputations of authentic journalists to keep the blood soaked crimes of the western establishment a corporate state secret.
Sieg Hiel, the Fuhrer is alive and well and living in the White House with an annex now in Brazil.
Corporations will grow rich exploiting the resources of the Amazon and the poor will have trouble staying alive. The sons of Adolph have gained power again.
Nothing could be scarier on Halloween than the Right Wing Tyrannical Despots we have created.
Bolsonaro is a monster that doesn’t need a mask for Halloween. I hope there will be protests big enough to bring him down. He is much more interested in wrecking the environment, attracting selfish companies to do business in Brazil & being a dictator than in promoting equality of the races, genders & sexual orientations.or in tackling poverty & the Zika Virus.
a totally unconvincing article. Our corporate media didn’t elect Bolsonaro monster though he be, the people of Brazil did, the same people that had elected the Workers Party and with the same media.
Leftists should recognize the sainted “people” have some dark impulses including misogyny, homophobia, racism that have little to do with our media. Leftists also need to look into the mirror and seriously consider the disappointing performance of diverse leftish rule and parties - this has to include not only the “Communist” regimes - Soviet Union, China, Viet Nam… but leftist rule in Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina, and left center parties such as Syriza in Greece, French Socialists, the German Greens who helped dismember Yugoslavia, and recent, the New Democrats in Alberta still all in for oil. Its hard to believe Corbyn, the latest hero, who has had such a hard time leading his own party, could do better.
I think progressives need to calm their rhetoric, develop more realistic expectations, understand the need to work in coalitions with partners with some different views, stop bitterly criticizing each other and the various center-left oppositions to right-wing regimes (such as in the US where excessive leftist vitriol against Democrats is usually a recipe for failure, steps backwards, and depression.)
"Social media has empowered ordinary people. It has shown them that they cannot trust their leaders, that power trumps justice, that the elite’s enrichment requires their poverty. They have concluded that, if the rich can engage in slash-and-burn politics against the planet, our only refuge, they can engage in slash-and-burn politics against the global elite.
Are they choosing wisely in electing a Trump or Bolsonaro? No. But the liberal guardians of the status quo are in no position to judge them. For decades, all parts of the corporate media have helped to undermine a genuine left that could have offered real solutions, that could have taken on and beaten the right, that could have offered a moral compass to a confused, desperate and disillusioned public."
This makes no logical sense. First Cook says that social media has “empowered ordinary people”. Then he says that the opposite - that it is the “liberal guardians of the status quo” who selected Trump and Bolsonaro rather than “ordinary people”, depriving them of a “moral compass”. The author really doesn’t know what he wants to say.
Thank you for your thoughtful post.
I vaguely remember a sense of alarm when manufacturing corporations began acquiring TV networks back in the seventies. (A lot happened behind the scene in the seventies.) Perhaps the internal firewall that existed between boardroom and news room survived a while longer, but that all changed when News Corp. barged in. (‘Barged’ literally since Murdock was not yet in the cue to become a naturalized citizen.)
The lesson for me is not to look the other way in the future, lest we have none.