‘Electoral reform’ Category Archives
by stuartbramhall in Electoral reform
According to the Center for Media and Democracy PR Watch , a lot of Republican donors are extremely unhappy with Republican strategist Karl Rove, credited for Bush’s election victories in 2000 and 2004, for his mismanagement of his SuperPAC American Crossroads and his 501(c)(4) “dark money” group Crossroads GPS. When undisclosed spending is taken into account, Rove may have spent as much as $390 million in the effort to sway a small number of undecided voters in North Carolina and seven congressional races.
PR Watch quotes a Republican donor who spoke to the Huffington Post: “The billionaire donors I hear are livid. There is some holy hell to pay. Karl Rove has a lot of explaining to do … I don’t know how you tell your donors that we spent $390 million and got nothing.” Real estate tycoon Donald Trump put it even more succinctly when he tweeted that Rove had “blow[n] $400 million this cycle.”
American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS possibly won North Carolina’s fifteen electoral votes for Romney. This was the only state in which Crossroads ran presidential campaign ads, which Obama won in 2008 but lost in 2012. The races GPS helped the Republicans win were in Nevada, where they spent $6.6 million to help Dean Heller keep his U.S. Senate seat, as well as six incumbent House races where they spent $300,000 to $1 million each. This amounts to a 14.4% return on investment (less if undisclosed spending is taken into account). Rove’s performance was so spectacularly poor that real estate tycoon Donald Trump
As Christian activist L. Brent Bozell told Bloomberg News, “Right now there is stunned disbelief that Republicans fared so poorly after all the money they invested. If I had 1/100th of Karl Rove’s money, I would have been more productive than he was.”
Republican adviser Rick Tyler also attacked Rove in an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “They went out with their power points and convinced people to give money, but it was as pathetic a performance as I’ve ever seen…Clearly, Rove has too much control over the purse strings.”
Read more here.
by stuartbramhall in Attacks on Civil Liberties, Electoral reform
If video won’t play go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Ybl9roaHe0
Investigative reporter Greg Palast is on a speaking tour for his latest book Billionaires and Bandits: How to Steal and Election in 9 Easy Steps. Palast is best known for exposing the so-called “ex-felon” scrub list that deliberately disenfranchised tens of thousands of law abiding African Americans from voting in the 2000 presidential election in Florida. From his interview on RealNews, I suspect Billionaires and Bandits is probably his most important expose. In it he reveals, for the first time, the true motivation behind the Citizens United case, in which a small group of right wing activists obtained a Supreme Court ruling removing any limitation on corporate donations to political campaigns.
According to Palast, the real agenda behind the Supreme Court case was to keep the notorious Koch brothers (major founders and funders of conservative thinktanks like the Heritage Foundation, ALEC, the CATO Institute, and right wing Astroturf groups, such as the Campaign for America’s Future, the Campaign for a Fair Economy and the Tea Party) out of jail for illegal corporate donations they had made to Republican campaigns. In other words, the ruling decriminalized extensive lawbreaking by the Republican Party’s favorite billionaires. Palast stresses it was no accident that Ted Olsen, the Citizens United attorney, also happens to be legal counsel for Koch Industries.
The Koch Brothers’ Long History of Flouting the Law
As Palast reveals at the beginning of the interview, he was an FBI investigator prior to becoming an investigative journalist. During the late eighties, he was directly involved in investigating Charles Koch for illegally siphoning oil (beyond what Koch Industries had for) from Indian reservations. According to Palast, the FBI had videos of the whole operation, as well as numerous witness statements, including one from David and Charles’ younger brother Bill. The US attorney in Oklahoma had already filed an indictment against subject 67C (their code name for Charles Koch) when Koch leaned heavily on Oklahoma Senator Don Nickles (R 1988-2005) who exerted pressure to have the federal prosecutor replaced and had the indictment quashed.
With the possibility of criminal prosecution off the table, brother Bill Koch filed a civil lawsuit over the oil theft under the False Claims Act, which allows private plaintiffs to sue, on behalf of the government, companies and individuals which have defrauded it.
In December 1999, the jury found that Koch Industries had taken oil it didn’t pay for from federal land, and the company paid a $25 million settlement to the federal government.
The FBI next turned its attention to 350 criminal violations of environmental law, mainly due to faulty pipelines dumping oil sludge into rivers. After George W. Bush became president in 2000, the US Justice Department dropped 88 of the charges. Two days before the trial, Attorney General John Ashcroft settled for a plea bargain, in which the company pled guilty to falsifying documents. All major charges were dropped, and Koch and Ashcroft settled the lawsuit for a fraction of that amount.
The FBI – and Congress – Investigate Illegal Corporate Donations
Next on the FBI list of crimes was the smear campaign Koch Industries secretly funded, through Campaign for Our Children’s Futures, in 1994, when corporate campaign donations were still illegal. The campaign, which caused 25 incumbent Democrats to lose their seats, also caused Clinton to lose control of Congress in the 1994 midterms and again in 1996. The illegal campaign donations were funded through an entity called Triad Management Services. Senator Fred Thompson, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee attempted to undertake an investigation into Triad. According to Palast, it was shut down the same day Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (who was also seriously ethically challenged) made a deal with President Bill Clinton not to investigate his illegal campaign donations from the Indonesian billionaire James Riady.
by stuartbramhall in Electoral reform
Owing to a longstanding conviction that true political power rest in corporate boardrooms, prior to coming to New Zealand I viewed electoral politics as a waste of time. For the best part of 30 years, I have devoted my limited leisure time to direct action (public education events, rallies, protest marches, etc). Ten years ago, it would have been unthinkable to put my personal life on hold for six months for an electoral campaign. Yet that’s exactly what I’ve done this year, as a volunteer fundraiser for the New Zealand Green Party and campaign manager for the Greens’ New Plymouth candidate.
The outcome of our November 26 elections was extremely gratifying, with the Greens receiving an unprecedented 10.6% of the party vote. The success of the referendum to preserve MMP (New Zealand’s system of proportional representation) was also a major coup. Under MMP, 10.6% of the party vote will translate into thirteen Green MPs (Members of Parliament). Six of the new MPs will be women. This is largely down to the scores of gray-haired women (like me) who are the mainstay of the Green Party in the rural provinces, which account for half of this country’s population. At a 2009 meeting of the women’s caucus, we decided it was time to transform the thousands of phone calls and cups of tea we make every year into a strong female presence in Parliament. We did this by identifying, supporting and promoting strong women candidates – and via strategic voting on the list (which all party members vote on) that determines the order in which new MPs will be admitted to Parliament.
Parliamentary Presence=Media Access
I have no illusions that the presence of thirteen (possibly fourteen when the overseas votes are counted November 10th) Green MPs in Parliament will end corporate rule in New Zealand. As a minority party in opposition, the Greens will have no power to enact legislation or policies. Yet it’s impossible to deny that having MPs in Parliament gives the Green Party a presence in the media they would never enjoy as a community group meeting in members’ living room. Over the past nine years they have used this media presence extremely effectively to mainstream formerly fringe issues, such as climate change, Peak Oil, food security and ecosystem protection.
The coverage of Parliamentary business is never as good as it should be in a well-functioning democracy. New Zealand’s two pro-corporate parties (National and Labour) still drown out the Greens and other minor parties, no matter how powerful or urgent our message is. That being said, coverage of legislative issues is still far better here than in the US. Political controversy is still news in New Zealand. I suspect this relates to the absence of a robust infotainment industry, which is so effective in distracting Americans from the important job all citizens should play in a democracy – namely holding elected officials to account. New Zealand has no homegrown movie or TV stars to speak of, and efforts to glamorize rugby stars and Wills and Kate to the level of Brittany Spears, Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt have been pretty pathetic.
Over the last nine years, with the help of Greenpeace New Zealand, which is far more militant than the US organization, and a strong sustainability movement, the New Zealand Green Party has used their limited media presence to mobilize public support around a range of environment-related issues. In the last three years, the total disarray of the official Labour party has established us as the experts in a number of areas. This means that reporters ring the Green Party first, instead of Labour, for an expert response regarding river contamination from farm run-off (i.e. cow manure), the Pike River disaster (which killed 28 coal miners), the Rena oil spill and, increasingly, child poverty and the increasingly lucrative Green technology industry.
I have every reason to believe that 2012 will usher in a similar synergy between the Greens and Occupy New Zealand and other non-partisan groups committed to reforming New Zealand’s economy and banking system. Although the New Zealand Green Party has produced a substantial body of visionary, people-focused economic policy over the years, up till now, the national media has totally refused to cover our perspective on any issues other than environmental ones.
One of our main objectives in the recent election campaign was to blast our way out of this box by conducting a sophisticated campaign that forced reporters to acknowledge our equally visionary social justice and economic policy. We did this by limiting our platform to three simple planks that, according to market research, resonated most strongly with potential Green voters. We promised to clean up New Zealand rivers, bring 100,000 children out of poverty and create 100,000 green jobs by subsidizing the development of renewable energy technology.
Establishing our economic credentials seems especially important, given recent IMF and OECD warnings that the global economy is again on the brink of meltdown. The unwillingness of US and European politicians to take a hard line with international banks makes collapse look inevitable at this point. When it occurs, it will be essential to have players at the table who are committed to solutions that benefit people, rather than business interests. With well-thought out, consensus-driven policies around ways government can support local food production, recycling, sustainable transport and renewable and sustainable energy production, the New Zealand Green Party is in an ideal position to fill this role.
by stuartbramhall in Electoral reform
I am a little surprised by all the weeping and gnashing of teeth over the Democrats’ loss of the House on November 2nd. It’s not like everyone didn’t know it was going to happen. Not only has Obama been an abysmal president, but his administration has lost a substantial portion of his support base – by calling them everything from whiners to “latte-sipping, New York Times-reading, Volvo-driving, no-gun-owning, effete, politically correct, arrogant Chablis-drinking, limousine liberals,” who “seem to value rights and entitlements over duties and responsibilities.” (See http://www.correntewire.com/ive_got_goosebumps_obama_mentioned_me)
I’m sure I wasn’t alone in deciding not to vote for anyone remotely connected to Obama, after he went out of his way to disparage my views on single payer health care. In my experience, it’s unprecedented in election year for a politician to systematically insult the very people who busted their butts to get him elected. About a month ago I began to suspect the Obama administration might being doing this deliberately – that they wanted to hand the Republicans a midterm victory – especially when Vice President Joe Biden and other more experienced cabinet members joined the band wagon.
I found it interesting that this was also the immediate reaction of one BBC commentator, who harkened back to the stalemate that occurred between Clinton and a Republican Congress is 1996 – and the common view that the Republicans handed Clinton his second victory by shutting the government down during a budget dispute.
The reaction on the BBC was that Obama, increasingly worried about Democratic challengers (such as Hillary Clinton) for the 2012 nomination, intends to use the Republican Congress as a foil to distract attention from his own deficiencies – and thus bolster his chances of being the Democratic nominee in the next presidential election.
Interesting that at least one major daily The Seattle Post Intelligencer (now on-line only) has taken a similar view. See “2010 GOP wins: Foil for Obama’s re-election?” http://www.seattlepi.com/connelly/429224_JOEL29.html
Kind of says it all, doesn’t it? See my blog about culture jamming at http://stuartbramhall.aegauthorblogs.com/2010/10/10/bankrupt-the-cia-boycott-heroin/
by stuartbramhall in Electoral reform, Things That Aren't What They Seem
There is growing concern about the growing number of resignations from the Obama White House, another significant sign his administration is in deep trouble. Especially as seven of the resignations have occurred within the last six months. Both parties try to avoid major White House changes in the six months leading up to a midterm election. The instability jeopardizes voter confidence and greatly increases votes for the opposing party.
- Rahm Emanuel, chief of staff. Resigned effective October 1, 2010.
- Retired General James Jones, National Security Adviser. Resignation announced on October 8, 2010.
- Ellen Moran, Communications Director. Left in April 2009.
- Van Jones, special adviser for “Green Jobs.” Left in September 2009.
- Mark Lippert, deputy national security adviser. Left in October 2009.
- David Ogden, Deputy Attorney General. Resigned in February 2010.
- Greg Craig, White House Counsel. Craig was forced to announce his resignation in November 2009.
- Peter Orszag, Director of the Office of Management and Budget. Resigned in June 2010.
- Retired Admiral Dennis Blair, Director of National Intelligence. Resigned in May 2010.
- Christina Romer, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. Resigned in September 2010.
- Larry Summers, Director of National Economic Council. Resignation not to take effect until after November 2 election.
- Senior White House Advisor David Axelrod. Resignation planned for early 2011.
It’s widely acknowledged that Emanuel’s, Jones’ and Crags resignations – and possibly others – were forced, rather than voluntary.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has also announced his decision to leave early next year. However it’s rumored Gates may move up his departure, owing to Jones’ dismissal. In addition there are recent reports that White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has been asked to leave. As well as rumors Hillary Clinton may leave if the Democrats do poorly in the election, especially if Gates leaves early.
With Obama’s sinking approval ratings, it’s no surprise that Democrats in tough Senate and Congressional races are deliberately distancing themselves from the President (see http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/konrad-yakabuski/incumbent-democrats-distance-themselves-from-washington/article1756190/).
Enter Deep Throat 2
However according to investigative journalist and former intelligence officer Wayne Madsen – and “Deep Throat 2″ – a former Obama insider who has been spilling his guts to a mysterious blogger named Ulsterman – Obama is also in deep trouble personally. In fact Deep Throat 2 alleges he’s taking antidepressants, drinking to excess and manifesting Nixonian-style paranoia. (see http://theintelhub.com/2010/10/15/wayne-madsen-white-house-in-crisis/ and http://newsflavor.com/politics/world-politics/white-house-insider-what-the-hell-have-we-done/)
It has reached a point, according to Madsen and Ulsterman, that the President does little more than play golf and watch ESPN. With some top level Democrats talking about invoking Section 4 of the 25th Amendment – which permits the involuntary removal of the president from office. In Obama’s case, for health reasons.
The Awful Legacy of Caretaker Governments
However what I find most troubling is that, for whatever reason, Obama is no longer in charge. And once again, as under Nixon (term 2), Reagan (who never recovered after getting shot), and Bush II; the US is being run by a caretaker government – faceless appointees, who are totally unaccountable to American voters and feel free to engage in unconstitutional and blatantly criminal activities. This is clear from the legacy of past caretaker governments: illegal weapons sales to an enemy nation (Iran), CIA involvement in narcotics trafficking, the raiding of the federal workers’ compensation fund (I cover this in my memoir) and fraudulent S&L loans to fund covert mercenaries (directly responsible for the collapse of 29 savings and loan associations), 9-11, Guantanamo, torture, sodomy of teenage Iraqi prisoners, extraordinary rendition and the repeal of habeas corpus and other constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties.
by stuartbramhall in Electoral reform
There is a growing movement in Europe – led primarily by youth demonstration councils and parliaments – to lower the voting age to 16. At present young people vote at 16 in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Jersey, Guernsey, the Isle of Mann and Slovenia (if in full time employment). In the UK a bill to reduce the voting age to 16 received its second reading in Parliament just before the recent elections. There is also an initiative in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to lower the voting age to 16 in all EU countries.
In other parts of the world, young people vote at 17 in Sudan, Israel (in municipal elections), North Korea, East Timor, and the Seychelles. They vote at 16 in Brazil and Nicaragua, and there is a bill bending in the Taiwan legislature to lower the voting age to 17.
Taxation Without Representation
There are obvious civil rights issues in discriminating against 16 and 17 year olds by denying them the right to vote, especially those that are in full time employment and pay taxes. Although there is no constitutional guarantee against taxation without representation, there is strong tradition in common law that people who pay taxes are entitled to some say in how their tax money is spent. In fact it is one of the more familiar rallying cries leading up to the American Revolution.
There is a certain illogic in allowing teenagers to work (and pay taxes), drive, have sex and be tried in the criminal justice system as adults – and at the same time claiming they are too “immature” to vote. Let’s get serious here. Which is more dangerous – driving or voting? It’s really scary to think that in fourteen states, teenagers are competent to receive the penalty at 16 – and in five at 17. Yet they aren’t competent to vote in those states till they turn 18.
Current Teenagers: the Most Politically Aware Ever
Aside from the civil rights issues, the most compelling argument in countries that have lowered the voting age is that our current generation of teenagers, owing to the proliferation of high speed interactive media (i.e. the Internet), is the most politically aware and educated ever. The second, more politically imperative argument relates to a problematic population demographic present in most western democracies. In short most industrialized countries face a crisis point where a large group of baby boomers can expect to spend approximately 20 years “in retirement,” with a very small pool of working adults paying for their social security, health care and nursing homes. The issue has already reared its ugly head with the controversial proposal to force generation Xers and Yers to work till age 70 before they can retire.
As the Danish representative who introduced the Vote at 16 initiative to the European Parliament points out, denying 16 and 17 year olds input into this major policy shift is a clear invitation to civil unrest.
The only argument I have seen against reducing the voting age is that 16 and 17 olds are still getting to know themselves and are incapable of exercising good political judgement. If we followed this argument to its logical conclusion – that self-knowledge and good judgement are essential for reasonable participation in the electoral process – the US would have to increase the voting age to 40.
For more information on the UK movement see http://www.votesat16.org.uk/
by stuartbramhall in Electoral reform, Feminism, Mind Control and Disinformation
Predictions from Wilhelm Reich’s Mass Psychology of Fascism (1933)
In one respect The Mass Psychology of Fascism was a spectacular failure – namely in Reich’s failure to predict the dramatic transformation in women’s status and roles at the end of the twentieth century.
Reich believed that human beings would only achieve true freedom when workers controlled (and owned) their place of work, as well as controlling the economic system and institutions of political power. He also believed a major psychological and sociological transformation needed to occur before the working class acquired the self-confidence necessary to overcome their innate fear of freedom and the responsibility that accompanies it.
Reich had Great Hopes for the Baby Boomers
When Reich published his final edition of The Mass Psychology of Fascism (in 1946 when it was translated into English), he fully believed that this transformation would occur in the baby boom generation. Clearly he failed to anticipate the breakdown in civic structures that would occur in the sixties and seventies – and the move by the majority of Americans to use TV, computers, cell phones and other electronic gadgets and fads to replace more natural forms of social interaction. There was also no way he could have predicted the enormous indoctrinating role TV and other mass media would play in reinforcing peoples’ underlying fears and anxieties and craving for authoritarian government and religious structures.
The Transforming Effect of Women’s Economic Independence
At the same time he also underestimated the substantial numbers of women who would become economically independent over the next 60 years. And that this would lead to the wholesale abandonment by modern women of authoritarian family structures. When the first edition of the Mass Psychology of Fascism appeared in 1933, it was still quite rare for women to be economically independent. And as Reich describes, married women living in rigid authoritarian families were the most enthusiastically responsive not only to Nazi propaganda, but to reactionary ideologies in other societies.
In most western societies social and psychological liberation – pushing women to seek out a broad range of other freedoms – quickly followed economic independence. Poll after poll shows that economically independent women – who tend to be pro-abortion, pro-gay rights and anti-war – are extremely turned off by the reactionary New Right ideology. In many localities throughout the western world, it’s these same women who form the backbone of grassroots organizations to end the war in the Middle East, to end corporate interference in government and to foster local, state and federal sustainability initiatives to reduce carbon emissions and global dependence on fossil fuels.
New Ways to Play on Women’s Insecurities
This isn’t to negate the powerful reactionary messages that continue to emanate from the mainstream media to play on women’s insecurities. The widespread breakdown in extended family and community relationships make both men and women exquisitely sensitive to these messages – given that the TV, computer and cell phone have come to monopolize their connection with the outside world.
Instead of appealing to nationalistic, patriotic and racist ideals, as Hitler did, these messages play on women’s inadequacies regarding their appearance (with pressure to be thin and have perfect breasts, teeth, breath, skin and hair and to only wear the latest fashions) and their competence as females (with pressure, not only to reproduce, but to live in perfectly designed and outfitted homes.
by stuartbramhall in Electoral reform, Mind Control and Disinformation
Why Americans Don’t Vote
(From Wilhelm Reich, The Mass Psychology of Fascism – 1933)
In the US only half of eligible adults register and a little over fifty percent of registered voters actually vote. Reich argues that it’s typical in highly authoritarian “democracies” for the passive, non-voting population to constitute the majority. The fact that other western democracies (Europe and New Zealand, for example) experience a higher turn-out would suggest that these countries are somewhat more “democratic” (less authoritarian). This could also explain why US turn-out was better prior to the rise of the New Right in the 1980s – which has been accompanied by an increase in political and social repression (including loss of earning power and workplace protections, loss of Constitutional rights, smoking bans, warrantless surveillance and wiretaps and mandatory airport searches and workplace urine screens).
Why the Left Fails to Engage the Working Class
Reich also stresses, with examples from Germany, Japan, Italy and other totalitarian states that it’s is precisely this passive, non-voting majority that fascists and ultra-conservatives reach out to in achieving power. He is very critical of the Left for attempting to engage this demographic by addressing their appalling economic conditions – a strategy he insists is doomed to failure. According to Reich, what the Left needs to grasp – and never does – is that owing to the social conditions they grow up in, this politically inactive majority are too caught up in the inner struggle to function as effective adults to think in terms of their economic needs. To put it crudely, personal needs, such as getting laid, and driving a fast car and watching the Superbowl on a flat screen TV will always be a much higher priority than their wages or working conditions.
Not Voting is an “Active” Choice
Reich also makes the point that just because this group is “non-political” in no way means they are passive. To the contrary, he argues that their withdrawal from the political process is actually a highly active (though unconscious) defense against the social responsibility inherent in making political choices. Reich’s definition of “freedom” is the ability and responsibility for each individual to shape his own personal, occupational and social existence in a rational way. He also asserts that there is nothing more terrifying to the average person than the responsibility entailed in this level of freedom. Because the experience of being raised in excessively authoritarian family, educational and religious structures denies men and women any experience of the human organism’s natural capacity of self-regulation – they reach adulthood with no confidence in their ability to conduct their lives without external authority to guide and compel them.
Moreover because all of this is unconscious, it never occurs to most people that their unhappiness and perceived lack of freedom stems from their own fears and anxieties about taking full responsibility for their own thoughts and feelings – and lives.
Why the Extreme Right is So Appealing
As Reich outlines, the reactionary right knows exactly how to appeal to these unconscious fears and anxieties. First by creating even more rigid and authoritarian structures – that provide immediate relief of anxiety by limiting choice. And secondly by promoting racist or pseudo-racist ideology that projects this group’s unhappiness and perceived lack of freedom away from themselves onto an external “enemy” – Jews, Moslems, socialists, immigrants, terrorists, Hispanics, blacks, feminazis, liberals, intellectuals (this was Bush’s favorite scapegoat) and increasingly teenagers.
To be continued, with Reich’s specific recommendations for the Left
by stuartbramhall in Electoral reform, Mind Control and Disinformation
(From Reich’s Mass Psychology of Fascism)
Reich begins with the observation – which he carefully documents – that fascism and reactionary political movements have a strong allure for oppressed and economically deprived people. He believes this attraction is based is based in a nearly universal conflict between an innate desire for freedom and the responsibility that accompanies this freedom. A conflict he believes develops during childhood and persists into adulthood and is based in an inability to accept that we, as human beings, are basically biologic creatures.
The Role of Sexual Repression
Reich devotes a large portion of his book to the concept of sexual repression. This makes sense to me, as anxiety about sexual functioning has always been the most troublesome aspect of our biologic make-up (obviously TV advertisers already know this). However his analysis of humankind’s universal struggle with our fundamental biologic nature goes far beyond the health of our sex lives. Moreover he is far more concerned about political, religious and economic institutions that deny women and adolescents, in particular, full expression of their sexuality. Mainly because the authoritarian family structures which enforce sexual repression, cause considerable psychic injury that children carry into adulthood – and which makes them extremely susceptible to right wing ideological propaganda.
Reich traces how “civilization’s” systematic suppression of normal biological (mainly sexual) functioning becomes perverted into “sadistic” social institutions (murder, war, torture, prostitution, rape, pornography, racial hatred, wage exploitation and slavery) that are rarely found in primitive societies that have yet to adopt paternalist and authoritarian social structures.
He describes in some detail early matriarchal (woman run) societies, which were the norm before our ancestors figured out where babies came from. In these societies both women and men were free to have sex with anyone they wanted as soon as they reached sexual maturity – and children were free to play doctor with other willing children. The potential for sexual excess or exploitation was dealt with via self-regulation and – where necessary – group pressure. As he and many anthropologists have noted, murder, war, rape, prostitution and the other atrocities noted above are considered aberrations in these societies.
The reasons why all primitive societies shifted to patriarchal (male run) social structures with the agricultural revolution (raising livestock and crops instead of hunting and picking berries) is widely debated. However there is general agreement that the ability to produce crops immediately led to the ability to produce agricultural surpluses and “wealth.” With it came a desire for men who accumulated wealth to bequeath it to their offspring. Which only became possible by instituting control over their partner’s (but not their own) sexuality.
The Role of Rigid Authoritarian Families
For many millennia this control was exerted through political and religious mandates under which women literally became the property of men. Although women are no longer regarded as property in most industrialized society (except for states that operate under fundamentalist Islamic law), Reich – and many contemporary feminists – assert that women and adolescents continue to be denied full enjoyment of their sexuality under male-controlled political, economic and religious institutions that continue to reinforce a rigid authoritarian family structure.
And, as Reich convincingly argues, it is not just women, children and adolescents (who eventually grow up) who suffer the harmful psychological effects of these structures. What results, according to Reich, is an inbred fear, anxiety and guilt about inner drives that most adults find very confusing – unpleasant feelings that are constantly reinforced by the power structure that controls public information.
All successful right wing propagandists (from Hitler’s propagandist Goebbels to Rush Limbaugh and Karl Rove) have been tuned in to this fear and confusion and exactly how to convey that they alone have the answer – through even more rigid, hierarchal structures.
To be continued – with Reich’s detailed analysis of the passive, non-voting majority that is characteristic of authoritarian “democracies.”
by stuartbramhall in Electoral reform, Mind Control and Disinformation
Last weekend I picked up Wilhelm Reich’s Mass Psychology of Fascism for the first time in thirty years. I’m not exactly sure why. I have been thinking and blogging a lot about the 2010 elections. I’m not very happy about the fact that the Republicans have already declared victory – nor that the major corporate donors who supported Obama’s election have already switched sides. Perhaps I was hoping for some flash of insight about two nagging questions that have been rattling around in my head
1) What, if anything, can about the 60-70 percent of voting age Americans that aren’t going to vote in November?
2) How is it that working Americans are so easily persuaded to vote for conservative candidates (like Bush, for example) who go on to enact policies that are very harmful to their own economic interests?
I was extremely surprised to rediscover that Reich himself posed these questions – and provided some pretty compelling answers – when he wrote the first edition of the Mass Psychology of Fascism in 1933.
A Controversial Figure
As a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, Reich was part of the original circle working with Freud (in Austria and Germany) in developing theories of the unconscious and developing the technique of psychoanalysis. Reich’s unique contribution was to divert the direction of psychoanalytic theory away from a narrow focus on neurotic symptoms to a broader understanding of personality and character development. As a card carrying Communist in the 1920s, he also sought to integrate Marxism and psychoanalysis. His work in this area formed the theoretical basis for what is now known as social psychology.
There is also good evidence that he developed a bipolar disorder in his later life and was most likely insane when he died (in a Pennsylvania jail) in 1957. However this in no way negates the immense importance of his early work, as he (like Lincoln, Churchill and scores of other historic figures who were manic depressive) had many long lucid periods in the early part of his life.
The Mass Psychology of Fascism
Reich’s primary premise is that immense success of fascism – in Germany, Italy, Spain and Japan (he is also concerned about Islamic fundamentalism and mentions “Arab” societies) – is based in a perverse tendency of working people to support and vote for conservative and reactionary candidates with political agendas that run contrary to their economic interests. He describes this tendency as universal to all industrialized societies because it relates to specific psychological and social characteristics of large populations. He asserts, with detailed anthropological, psychological, economic and political data, that it operates totally independently of national, cultural or ideological factors – or the personal characteristics of right wing leaders who seek to take advantage of this universal tendency.
According to Reich, the strong allure of reactionary politics – and overt fascism – is based in mankind’s 6,000 year history of rigid patriarchal, authoritarian and hierarchal social organization, particularly in its effect on childrearing practices. He believes the end result is a population of adults with a strong inner conflict between a biologically innate desire for freedom and the responsibility that goes along with that freedom. In addition to providing a detailed analysis of the social factors at the basis of this conflict, he also demonstrates (in my view very convincingly) how social change advocates can incorporate this understanding to work more effectively for true democratic change.
To be continued