It’s Party Time on the Titanic–and Screw the Slobs in Steerage
“So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late.” — Bob Dylan, “All Along the Watchtower”
Introduction: The Party to (Literally) End All Parties
Without hyperbole, this article will make a case for organizing a political movement—appropriately called “Indispensable”—that could literally save civilization. So, I wish to state my thesis up front, so that crucial thesis doesn’t get lost amid my arguments and documentation supporting it. That would be the worst conceivable case of readers—by a writer’s own fault—not seeing the forest for the trees.
So here’s my “indispensable” thesis: That our two ruling U.S. parties—the “duopoly” of Republicans and Democrats—have abandoned all policy sanity; for the sake of serving their plutocratic and militarist donors (essentially the same “Wall Street and War Street” donors for both parties), they’ve abandoned all serious, rational concern about nuclear war and climate change, not to mention the most elementary social justice. As a result, the only identifiable aim of Republican and Democrat policies is letting themselves and their Wall Street and War Street donors “party on the Titanic”—in other words, to “party like there’s no tomorrow.” No tomorrow, that it, for human civilization. To say nothing of the endless innocent animal species we’ll take down with us.
Needless to say, this policy decision to party on the Titanic was not made democratically. As is utterly typical, our Wall Street, War Street, and duopoly “betters” in first class didn’t consider us poor slobs in steerage at all—except to the extent it’s been necessary to brainwash us that the Titanic is being steered by responsible adults. To use Henry Giroux’s brilliant analytic term, we’re disposable—as disposable as the reams of toilet paper the selfish, hedonistic overindulgence of a “party to end all parties” would necessitate. To our Wall Street, War Street, and duopoly betters in first-class, we unwashed slobs in steerage are—like so much toilet paper—simply there to be shat upon and flushed.
Just as I’ve consciously chosen the movement name “Indispensable” to contrast with “disposable”—and to emphasize how crucial our movement is to civilization’s survival—I’m consciously exploiting here the marvelous coincidence of the term steerage designating the poorer, lower-class passengers on a ship. The criminal duopoly—not just Trump Republicans but the Clinton Democrats who elevated him to power—are steering us straight toward the iceberg, full steam ahead. Unless we poor slobs in steerage start thinking of ourselves as not disposable but “Indispensable” and seize control of steering the ship, that apocalyptic collision is inevitable.
Why U.S. Duopoly Elections Suck: Both Parties Are Cancerous
Except for the roughly one-third minority of U.S. citizens—charitably described as brainwashed—who still approve of Donald Trump, few Americans would have trouble with describing him as a hideously ugly tumor on our body politic.
But hideously ugly tumors, real or metaphorical, rarely grow in isolation, and are frequently symptoms of an underlying, dangerously metastasizing, cancer. Now, I’m no expert on actual cancers, but anyone with common sense—and the most rudimentary knowledge of history or civics—knows that unsightly metaphorical tumors like Trump never grow on a body politic in isolation; they’re always symptoms of a grave—and highly advanced—political disease. Indeed, an especially astute student of history and politics, Pulitzer Prize journalist Chris Hedges, has frequently stressed how populist demagogues—and worse yet, outright fascists—have frequently risen to power when so-called liberals have failed to play their implicitly promised (and once expected) role of defending working class and otherwise vulnerable people from capitalism’s worst excesses.
Now, our cancerous political system is essentially a two-party system, where only Republicans and Democrats currently have a realistic shot at wielding power. So, common sense alone would powerfully hint that the prominent growth of a ghastly tumor like Trump—and nothing’s more politically prominent than the president of the world’s most powerful nation—signifies a lethal political cancer eating away at both major parties. For if Democrats offered even a tolerable alternative, we’d never face the prospect of an administration as repulsive—as rash, as extremist, as cruel, as unqualified, and as brainlessly arrogant—as Trump’s. If we knew absolutely nothing else about Democrats, that voters in a two-party system preferred Trump and his Republicans to them would alone be a savage indictment of our jackass party.
The Real News about Today’s Democrats
In fact, we know a lot about Democrats, if by “we” we mean those of us who largely ignore mainstream media—owned by an ever–smaller cadre of biased corporate conglomerates—and trust independent progressive media for most of our news. And what we know is that, at the leadership level, Democrats have not merely remained the corrupt neoliberal party disgustedly sketched by Hedges in the immediate wake of Trump’s shocking victory. Instead, rejecting the soul-searching such a shocking defeat ought to produce, they’ve doubled down on the same corruption, the same rejection of progressive reform, that caused last November’s electoral disaster.
As just noted, mere common sense ought to tell mainstream news media that the election of a president as hideous as Trump, in a two-party system, is really a story about the intolerable corruption and irresponsibility of both major parties. And the same common sense should inform them that Democrats’ doubling down on the same corruption that cost them the election is a big effing deal. But as Upton Sinclair memorably told us, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” And with the size of the salaries now paid (at least to mainstream network news personalities) by our conglomerated corporate media, the unwillingness to understand, let alone report, common sense that menaces the interests of Wall Street, War Street, and their duopoly lackeys is more flagrant than ever.
Any informed progressive could easily multiply examples of Democrats doubling down on the same corruption that caused their loss to Trump. For starters, there are the horrific, tone-deaf personnel decisions about party leadership. Like naming corporate donor sweethearts Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi their minority leaders in Congress. Or insisting that spineless establishment hack Tom Perez chair the Democratic National Committee. Or, speaking of the DNC, there’s the DNC’ scandalous anti-democratic legal argument in defending its fraud lawsuit: an argument best viewed as the party leadership’s loving embrace of Hillary Clinton’s own scandalous assertion (in a highly paid speech to her Wall Street “best buds”) that a politician needs to have public and private positions on issues. Apparently, for the Democratic leadership, that applies to primary elections too: a phony public claim of neutrality and fairness for the disposable folks in steerage, and a backroom rigging of elections in favor of the well-heeled party-goers who frequent the captain’s quarters.
Fortunately, an increasing number of informed people, generally progressives, object strenuously to Democrats doubling down on the party corruption that helped elect Trump. So unsurprisingly, in reaction, Democrats’ chief propagandists and media flacks—in another flagrant instance of doubling down on corruption—have created a smear campaign against such informed objectors. In an unspeakably sleazy attempt to conflate us with the racist, xenophobic alt-right, we are the “alt-left”—when fighting plutocracy and militarism is the only thing makes us “alt” at all, considering militarism and plutocratic corruption have become mainstream Beltway policies. Journalist Mike Sainato has insightfully linked this new smear campaign to the Clinton Democrats’ earlier-vintage “Bernie Bro” smears. To use Sainato’s own trenchant, spot-on formula, the Clintonite Democratic leadership has “weaponized identity politics”—identity politics being the moral fig leaf covering their lackey service of Wall Street and Wall Street—to unjustly smear everyone who cries foul on that lackey service. We can only hope our own vastly more justified smear—“duopoly Democrat”—is vastly more successful in honestly conflating corporatist, militarist Democrats with Republicans than their failed slimeball attempt to conflate correctly critical progressives with the alt-right.
Needless to say, these egregious rejections of reform by Democrats have been less than a blip on the mainstream media radar. Yet, when resisting Trump is a matter of global importance, concealing the unrepentant corruption of the Democratic Party claiming to lead the anti-Trump resistance—when voters’ rejection of that same corruption helped elect Trump—surely merits the name of “fake news.”
And Democrats’ unrepented (and largely unreported) perversity only gets far worse—worse in a way that justifies its own heading.
Bear-Baiting and an Incestuous Orgy: Properly Decadent “Sport” on the Titanic
If you’re going to consciously party on the Titanic—in other words, party like there’s no tomorrow because you’ve decided there won’t be—you might as well do so in truly decadent style.
For anyone who truly groks decadence, it’s a matter of knowing that one’s civilization is going down the shitter and asserting by one behavior that one doesn’t a flying frack. In other words, it’s a matter of stylishly putting an exclamation point on one’s moral nihilism. For today’s duopoly Democrats and their Wall Street and War Street donors, some hard-core bear-baiting followed by an incestuous orgy seems to do the trick nicely. (But of course, treating most of humanity itself—above all, their voting base—as the toilet paper necessitated by the overindulgence of their “party to end all parties” is a supremely decadent touch.)
By “bear-baiting,” I of course mean the scapegoating of Russia for Democrats’ own electoral failures and scandals; I mean, above all, the terrifying escalation of hostilities (presumably buried with the Cold War) with the nuclear-armed “Russian bear” such scapegoating entails. Now, merely by itself, the unjustified scapegoating of Russia is a huge—and baneful—news story. For starters, it’s the utter quintessence of Democrats’ shameless, unrepentant doubling down on their party’s corrupt ways in response to their loss to Trump. As Paul Street (reflecting on Jeff Greenfield’s correct but misleading criticism of Trump for creating media distractions via Twitter) insightfully puts it, “the biggest single media distraction of all by far has been the Russia hysteria, which Max Blumenthal has aptly described as ‘a convenient… way of opposing Trump without having to do anything remotely progressive.’” But beyond making a “non-story” of Democrats’ complete current rejection of progressive reform, their Russia hysteria is baneful (as Street correctly emphasizes) in another way: it distracts attention from all the harmful non-Russia-related things Trump is currently doing. Like, say, appointing dozens of right-wing ideologues as judges in the federal courts.
So Democrats’ “bear-baiting” is destructive simply as a distraction. It’s as if the Democratic party animals on the Titanic had invited the slobs in steerage to gawk at their bear-baiting—simply to divert their attention from the massive iceberg toward which they and Republicans are resolutely steering the ship. But the bear-baiting—the hostility-fueling scapegoating of nuclear power Russia—appears in its full sinister light only once we’re aware of the burgeoning incestuous orgy. By which I mean the ever-tightening loving embrace—now promoted by both major parties—between neoliberals and neocons. Or in populist terms, between Wall Street and War Street.
If ever mainstream media failure to report a major, sinister development amounted to “fake news,” Democrats embrace of warmongering neocons (read here and here) is it. Far from rejecting the addition of neocon traits to neoliberal ones that made Hillary Clinton such a repulsive candidate, they’ve clearly made a tighter bond with warmongering neocons their party’s charted course.
Now, warmongering neocons and “market-mongering” neoliberals always had prospects of a cozier relationship. On the one hand, military and police might has always served as the enforcement arm for global market domination; Naomi Klein’s eye-opening book The Shock Doctrine amply documents that fact. On the other hand, the military-industrial-surveillance complex has always been—and is now more than ever—an obscenely lucrative capitalist industry. And over the past several decades, Republican have made no secret of their love for bare-knuckled capitalism and its enforcing militarism. But Democrats, to appease their working class and progressive base, have traditionally paid considerable lip service to fettering both capitalism and militarism. Democrats’ current gung-ho embrace of militarism—documented in Congressional Dems’ near-unanimous support for sanctions against Russia, Iran, and North Korea—virtually green lights a perverse, incestuous relationship between neocons and neoliberals: between Wall Street and War Street.
For informed progressives attuned to the importance of Naomi Klein’s climate justice vision—that global peace and equitably shared resources are the essential preconditions of addressing humanity’s climate emergency—having Democrats (already too neoliberal) deepen their embrace of neocon warmongering is utterly horrifying. It’s as if the Titanic party-goers, not finding their bear-baiting and incestuous orgy perverse and decadent enough, had decided to let enraged, rabid bears participate in the orgy. And extend the orgy to whole ship.
For the sake of letting Wall Street and War Street “party hearty,” both Republicans and Democrats are embracing the most perverse, suicidal policies imaginable from a climate standpoint. That no major media (and few progressive ones) are discussing this horrifying—and crucially important—story is the biggest conceivable instance of fake news. Yet, in 2018 and 2020, voters will make up their mind in its absence.
Unless a huge movement trumpeting this story becomes the news.
The Indispensable Movement Can Cure Fake News: By Becoming the News
Political movements have always arisen as a means to correct fake news—essentially the fake news of omission. Basically, some major injustice existed in a society—like slavery, or second-class citizenship for minorities, women, or gays—that the ruling powers did not want reported, let alone recognized and redressed. And the exclusion of the oppressed group’s grievance from political discourse was such that electoral politics offered no remedy whatsoever. Only organizing political movements could these groups make their grievance news—by making their movements the news. And only after movements had made their grievance a central part of political discourse could political action become feasible.
In especially dire situations—where the oppression “blacked out” from mainstream news and political discourse affects not a minority but a majority—a special kind of movement becomes necessary. Such a movement—in reality a “movement of movements” where minorities with various grievances are united in a majority with a common, underlying grievance—has frequently been termed a revolution, especially when associated with violence.
The horrific power of modern weaponry has excluded violent revolution as anything but a last resort. But I submit that the dire fiasco of two-party system, where both parties are corrupted by donors hell-bent on “partying on the Titanic,” will not be fixed by a normal social movement, let alone normal electoral politics. What we need is a “movement of movements”—a.k.a. a peaceful revolutionary movement—embracing whatever rhetoric, strategy, and tactics are needed to make itself the central news story governing political discourse. And given that the crisis of neoliberalism, incestuously paired with militarism, making most citizens disposable, is international, the needed movement—the “Indispensable” movement—may need to become international.
Obviously, no individual can singlehandedly organize or strategize for such a movement. What I have done here is supply a comprehensive rationale for the Indispensable movement and, in the process, forge a significant part of its rhetoric. Patrice Greanville of The Greanville Post has generously offered me a special editorial post for promoting the proposed Indispensable movement, as well as promoting any activist movements or groups who see their own aims furthered by belonging to this revolutionary “movement of movements.” Anyone interested in laying the groundwork for such a movement should (for now) follow The Greanville Post, the Progressive or Bust Facebook group, or read my pieces at OpEdNews and Nation of Change, and at other progressive publications where I’m occasionally published.
from the archives: