Why Aren’t Americans Rising Up Like the People of Chile and Lebanon?

Yves here. While this article raises an important question, as in why don’t Americans revolt, its analysis leaves a lot to be desired. For instance, its authors Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J S Davies make the bizarre claim that Occupy failed because it “failed to transition from a rallying point and a decentralized, democratic forum to a cohesive movement that could impact the existing power structure.” Huh? Were they asleep when it was crushed in a `Federally-coordinated 17 city paramilitary crackdown, a mere two months after it launched? The fact that such a short-lived movement elicited such a backlash and still managed to make “the 1%” part of the lexicon is a testament to how much it achieved during its short life.

In addition, the authors appear to have no comprehension of how America operates. They depict the anti-war protests of the 1960s as “well organized” when that’s quite a stretch. They attribute the lack of mass movements in America to citizens pouring their energies into elections (huh?) and still believing in the fantasy of the American Dream. Did they not realize that Americans are worked to the bone just to survive, that even those who have full time jobs having few holidays and sick days? Oh, and that getting even a misdemeanor on your record for being rounded up in a protest, or even showing social media support for demonstrations is likely to be picked up in a job screening and serve as a basis for rejection? Most Americans are not willing to risk their income by taking to the streets, save for events lacking in muscle (meaning among other things, commitment to further marches and if those fail, more aggressive opposition to the system) like the pink pussyhat protests of the early Trump era.

Moreover, as Richard Kline explained long-form in a classic post, “Progressively Losing,” American progressivism comes out of a religious tradition, and progressives see themselves as engaged in a moral exercise. The classic list of “progressive” issues does not include economic objectives, like a safer workplace. Per Kline:

Progressives are at their best educating, advocating, and validating those in need well apart from the fray. There are few cases that readily come to mind where progressives have implemented any contested policy on their own initiative without others of different goals involved. Somebody else has to carry the can for their water to get drawn…What progressives do best is to deny and eventually withdraw community sanction for specific practices, so that those practices are eroded and then banned by governing authorities. Where communities are deeply divided and such practices have tenacious constituencies, progressives have few answers and no success.

His view is that progressives achieve change only when they ally with radicals, who in America have typically been groups with economic grievances who perceive they have little to lose by going to the barricades (whether literally or metaphorically).

Finally, America’s sprawl impedes effective protests. In France and the UK, if you demonstrate in and seriously disrupt the capital city, you also throw sand in the gears of commerce and finance. By contrast, even if millions descend on Washington, the importance is the show of mass support, since they all get herded into the National Mall, as opposed to that number of people amounting to a general strike lite.

By Medea Benjamin, cofounder of CODEPINK for Peace, and author of several books, including Inside Iran: The Real History and Politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Nicolas J S Davies, an independent journalist, a researcher for CODEPINK and the author of Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq. Originally published at openDemocracy

The waves of protests breaking out in country after country around the world beg the question: Why aren’t Americans rising up in peaceful protest like our neighbors? We live at the very heart of this neoliberal system that is force-feeding the systemic injustice and inequality of 19th century laissez-faire capitalism to the people of the 21st century. So we are subject to many of the same abuses that have fueled mass protest movements in other countries, including high rents, stagnant wages, cradle-to-grave debt, ever-rising economic inequality, privatized healthcare, a shredded social safety net, abysmal public transportation, systemic political corruption and endless war.

We also have a corrupt, racist billionaire as president, who Congress may soon impeach, but where are the masses outside the White House, banging pots and pans to drive Trump out? Why aren’t people crashing the offices of their congresspeople, demanding that they represent the people or resign? If none of these conditions has so far provoked a new American revolution, what will it take to trigger one?

In the 1960s and 1970s, the senseless Vietnam War provoked a serious, well-organized antiwar movement. But today the US’s endless wars just rage on in the background of our lives, as the US and its allies kill and mutilate men, women and children in distant countries, day after day, year after year. Our history has also witnessed inspiring mass movements for civil rights, women’s rights and gay rights, but these movements are much tamer today.

The Occupy Movement in 2011 came closest to challenging the entire neoliberal system. It awakened a new generation to the reality of government of, by, and for the corrupt 1%, and built a powerful basis for solidarity among the marginalized 99%. But Occupy lost momentum because it failed to transition from a rallying point and a decentralized, democratic forum to a cohesive movement that could impact the existing power structure.

The climate movement is starting to mobilize a new generation, and groups like School Strike for the Climate and Extinction Rebellion take direct aim at this destructive economic system that prioritizes corporate growth and profits over the very survival of life on Earth. But while climate protests have shut down parts of London and other cities around the world, the scale of climate protests in the US does not yet match the urgency of the crisis.

So why is the American public so passive?

Americans Pour Their Energy and Hopes into Electoral Campaigns

Election campaigns in most countries last only a few months, with strict limits on financing and advertising to try to ensure fair elections. But Americans pour millions of hours and billions of dollars into multi-year election campaigns run by an ever-growing sector of the commercial advertising industry, which even awarded Barack Obama its “Marketer of the Year” award for 2008. (The other finalists were not John McCain or the Republicans but Apple, Nike and Coors beer.)

When US elections are finally over, thousands of exhausted volunteers sweep up the bunting and go home, believing their work is done. While electoral politics should be a vehicle for change, this neoliberal model of corporate “center-right” and “center-left” politics ensures that congresspeople and presidents of both parties are primarily accountable to the ruling 1% who “pay to play.”

Former President Jimmy Carter has bluntly described what Americans euphemistically call “campaign finance” as a system of legalized bribery. Transparency International (TI) ranks the US 22nd on its political corruption index, identifying it as more corrupt than any other wealthy, developed country.

Without a mass movement continually pushing and prodding for real change and holding politicians accountable – for their policies as well as their words – our neoliberal rulers assume that they can safely ignore the concerns and interests of ordinary people as they make the critical decisions that shape the world we live in. As Frederick Douglass observed in 1857, “power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has and it never will.”

Millions of Americans have internalized the myth of the “American dream”, believing they have exceptional chances for social and economic mobility compared with their peers in other countries. If they aren’t successful, it must be their own fault – either they’re not smart enough or they don’t work hard enough.

The American Dream is not just elusive – it’s a complete fantasy. In reality, the US has the greatest income inequality of any wealthy, developed country. Of the 39 developed countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), only South Africa and Costa Rica exceed the US’s 18% poverty rate. The United States is an anomaly: a very wealthy country suffering from exceptional poverty. To make matters worse, children born into poor families in the US are more likely to remain poor as adults than poor children in other wealthy countries. But the American dream ideology keeps people struggling and competing to improve their lives on a strictly individual basis, instead of demanding a fairer society and the healthcare, education and public services we all need and deserve.

The Corporate Media Keeps Americans Uninformed and Docile

The US’s corporate media system is also unique, both in its consolidated corporate ownership and in its limited news coverage, endlessly downsized newsrooms and narrow range of viewpoints. Its economics reporting reflects the interests of its corporate owners and advertisers; its domestic reporting and debate is strictly framed and limited by the prevailing rhetoric of Democratic and Republican leaders; its anemic foreign policy coverage is editorially dictated by the State Department and Pentagon.

This closed media system wraps the public in a cocoon of myths, euphemisms and propaganda to leave us exceptionally ignorant about our own country and the world we live in. Reporters Without Borders ranks the U.S. 48th out of 180 countries on its Press Freedom Index, once again making the U.S. an exceptional outlier among wealthy countries.

It’s true people can search for their own truth on social media to counter the corporate babble, but social media is itself a distraction. People spend countless hours on Facebook, twitter, Instagram and other platforms venting their anger and frustration without getting up off the couch to actually do something – except perhaps sign a petition. “Clicktivism” will not change the world.

Add to this the endless distractions of Hollywood, video games, sports and consumerism, and the exhaustion that comes with working several jobs to make ends meet. The resulting political passivity of Americans is not some strange accident of American culture but the intended product of a mutually reinforcing web of economic, political and media systems that keep the American public confused, distracted and convinced of our own powerlessness.

The political docility of the American public does not mean that Americans are happy with the way things are, and the unique challenges this induced docility poses for American political activists and organizers surely cannot be more daunting than the life-threatening repression faced by activists in Chile, Haiti or Iraq.

So how can we liberate ourselves from our assigned roles as passive spectators and mindless cheerleaders for a venal ruling class that is laughing all the way to the bank and through the halls of power as it grabs ever more concentrated wealth and power at our expense?

Few expected a year ago that 2019 would be a year of global uprising against the neoliberal economic and political system that has dominated the world for forty years. Few predicted new revolutions in Chile or Iraqor Algeria. But popular uprisings have a way of confounding conventional wisdom.

The catalysts for each of these uprisings have also been surprising. The protests in Chile began over an increase in subway fares. In Lebanon, the spark was a proposed tax on WhatsApp and other social media accounts. Hikes in fuel tax triggered the yellow vest protests in France, while the ending of fuel subsidies was a catalyst in both Ecuador and Sudan.

The common factor in all these movements is the outrage of ordinary people at systems and laws that reward corruption, oligarchy and plutocracy at the expense of their own quality of life. In each country, these catalysts were the final straws that broke the camel’s back, but once people were in the street, protests quickly turned into more general uprisings demanding the resignation of leaders and governments.

They Have the Guns but We Have the Numbers

State repression and violence have only fueled greater popular demands for more fundamental change, and millions of protesters in country after country have remained committed to non-violence and peaceful protest – in stark contrast to the rampant violence of the right-wing coup in Bolivia

While these uprisings seem spontaneous, in every country where ordinary people have risen up in 2019, activists have been working for years to build the movements that eventually brought large numbers of people onto the streets and into the headlines.

Erica Chenoweth’s research on the history of nonviolent protest movements found that whenever at least 3.5% of a population have taken to the streets to demand political change, governments have been unable to resist their demands. Here in the US, Transparency International found that the number of Americans who see “direct action,” including street protests, as the antidote to our corrupt political system has risen from 17% to 25% since Trump took office, far more than Chenoweth’s 3.5%. Only 28% still see simply “voting for a clean candidate” as the answer. So maybe we are just waiting for the right catalyst to strike a chord with the American public.

In fact, the work of progressive activists in the US is already upsetting the neoliberal status quo. Without the movement-building work of thousands of Americans, Bernie Sanders would still be a little-known Senator from Vermont, largely ignored by the corporate media and the Democratic Party. Sanders’ wildly successful first presidential campaign in 2016 pushed a new generation of American politicians to commit to real policy solutions to real problems, instead of the vague promises and applause lines that serve as smokescreens for the corrupt agendas of neoliberal politicians like Trump and Biden.

We can’t predict exactly what catalyst will trigger a mass movement in the US like the ones we are seeing overseas, but with more and more Americans, especially young people, demanding an alternative to a system that doesn’t serve their needs, the tinder for a revolutionary movement is everywhere. We just have to keep kicking up sparks until one catches fire.

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    The answer to the title question:

    Media Manipulation via availability bias

    Who would rise up if all of that was in play and could be lost?

    1. inode_buddha

      I would add to your list, that nobody actually *wants* the sort of violence that could happen.

      And people have forgotten how hard their grandparents had to fight for the things we take for granted. My grandmother protested for the right to vote. They worked hard in those days, and expected fair pay — one might want to look up Joe Hill and find out what happened to the copper miners.

      When I entered the workforce, my Dad told me, “never forget that they would make you work for free if they could”… and then it *still* wouldn’t be enough for them.

      1. Krystyn Walentka

        My grandfather and Great Uncles were all coal miners (born in Coal Township, PA of all places). Hooo boy the stories of strikes they told me. Whole towns would join in. Solidarity 100%. They were all Polish of course, which helped with solidarity. (Is that why corporate Democrates are all for “diversity”?)

        But they had nothin’ so nothin’ left to loose. What kids have these days is houses and cars and cellphones and internet. They may be in debt but I tell you they are conditioned for all that stuff. It makes you compliant.

        But yeah, I think the author has a point that we still have the mistaken belief that Democracy works.

        1. jrs

          What they are also conditioned to is how hard it is to struggle individually for such things, to even find a job that pays the bills etc.. And people get conditioned by the struggle itself I suspect, to keep struggling individually as is the nature of life under capitalism. And having won any measure of anything after that … they cling like heck, because it’s all so extremely hard won by years of hardship and singular focus sometimes (and a matter of luck), and all so easily lost.

          American society is so puritan that we’re always paranoid of people getting conditioned by pleasure: by drugs, by sex, by the addictive properties of the internet, by excessive consumerism and all the dodads it buys. Maybe these things aren’t always laudable it’s true. But our obsession with such is SO strong, we seem sometimes unable to EVEN SEE how they are conditioned by pain, because it’s pleasure alone we look at with skepticism.

        2. lyman alpha blob

          About those houses and cars and cellphones the kids have – I’ll grant that a lot do but not all of them.

          I was speaking with a friend yesterday who is a public school teacher in rural Maine. She was telling us about some kids she deals with who live in campers with no running water or heat. One kid told her they did have water – they use the river. Another small girl asked my friend if she had seen the news about the man who stabbed another man in the neck. My friend said no and the girl told her it was her stepfather. When my friend asked if the stepfather was OK, she said yes, he was the one who did the stabbing.

          Hearing all that over dinner made me wonder what country I was living in. The number of people with nothing left to lose is definitely growing. Or as William Gibson likes to put it, the future is already here, it’s just unevenly distributed.

    2. jrs

      what you call wealth and comfort though comes a lot closer to most people’s definition of survival (as in roof over one’s head), not to mention survival in a society which is just gonna have some much solidarity with resisters NOT – eh you might want to consider that a cause, the lack of much solidarity. It is what it is.

    3. Anthony G Stegman

      I would also add cowardice. Americans, despite living in the “land of the free, home of the brave”, are not at all willing to risk much to achieve social goals. Their attachment to material possessions – houses, cars, jobs, etc…overrides all other concerns. So, while many Americans may prefer certain policies few are willing to take a chance in order to advance them. They would rather others take the risk. This also explains the “forever wars”. Because the military is 100% volunteer there is no big outcry over wars as there was during the Vietnam era when young men were being drafted. It’s much easier to “thank you for your service” than get yourself blooded.

      1. JBird4049

        Being arrested for anything, even falsely, gets put on your record, which the people who hire and fire, and anybody else can see it. “Says here you were arrested for pedophilia, kicking puppies, and jaywalking 20 years ago. So what if it never went to trial. I ain’t taking a chance.” Or your employer finds out and fires you.

        During the 60s and 70s it was much harder to have anyone see your record established if it was a different state. So the potential costs of protesting can be very steep and the economy, even in the late 70s, was much, much stronger.

        1. jrs

          But I guess that’s what people are saying when they say we are attached to our jobs. We are attached to our *ability to work*. But it’s not easy not to be (and what exactly? there is dependency – if one has anyone to depend on (!), and there is having nothing at all because one has no source of money, that’s the alternatives).

          With no record at all and a respectible resume, one can still easily be unemployed for months or years, just because of the job market these days. And if something on the record could ruin that one job chance that can turn it all around after months or years of unemployment, and make no mistake it’s yes/no, I’ve heard so from employers, then …

  2. Paul P

    It has been a great achievement of the US political system that
    the mass of people are depoliticized and unengaged in politics.
    Many people don’t vote, know their city, state, and federal representatives, have ever lobbied them in person, or joined a political club. They are not informed about the issues, don’t know the positions taken by their representatives, and don’t read about politics. This group includes people with advanced education as well as those with lesser education. Reader’s of NC can list numerous reasons for this, but I’ll just mention our surround sound MSM that captures people’s attention and manufactures ignorance.

    So, we’ve got a tough task, if we want to change this situation. The forces of reaction are in ascendance and a runaway freight train of climate disruption is approaching shortly. Personally, I keep plodding on but without optimism. It is almost a hobby to follow the unravelling.

    1. SAKMAN

      I cant believe I was so fixated on complacency that I forgot education. . . particularly the lack of education on the classics of western civilization.

      1. Arizona Slim

        I had some of that in my K-12 education. In addition to making the subject matter into a complete bore, there was very little talk of how these classics would actually have any relevance to modern times.

        OTOH, when I read the classics on my own, they were fascinating.

        1. Mike

          I’d say that the education/media complex is intertwined and ruled by the same “actors” who know the necessity of a beleaguered, biased, infighting working class to the continuance of their misrule.
          It is all education and training, a la Bernays and Goebbels.

          One point further – our total lack of engagement with citizens of other countries, which is not just lack of travel outside “tourism” venues, but something driven into our skulls by education and media that infantilizes foreign actions as somehow beneath our concern, because not The Empire.

  3. Eustache de Saint Pierre

    Yves described a while back how protesters are treated – forced to soil themselves etc. Outside looking in I think in comparison to Europe ( so far ), perhaps because of guns it is a much more tougher prospect in the US.

    Years ago I came across some footage of how strikers in the 30’s were dealt with in the US & then discovered what had happened in Appalachia – TPTB don’t family blog about & good luck is all I can say.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Yes, the violence against early labor leaders in the US has been completely airbrushed out of our history. Lynching was common. Ford had his own private army of thugs and Pinkertons would rent out anti-labor enforcers.

      1. John A

        The miners’ strike in the 1980s in Britain was very harshly and violently policed and the effects are still being felt today.

      2. paul

        I remember wandering into an impromptu tour of dudingston kirk up the road, and the elder waxed lyrical about Allan Pinkerton’s derring do.
        “And he was a vicious strikebreaker” I added, at which point he moved on from the subject.

        1. Michael Fiorillo

          Here’s a fantastic clip from the film – kudos to John Sayles, Chris Connor and James Earl Jones – that is probably among the best retorts to IdPol you’ll ever find.

          Needless to say, for those unfamiliar with the film, that the man advocating violence in the clip is in fact a provacateur and spy from the Baldwin-Felts Agency, which like the Pinkertons supplied labor spies and goons to employers.


          1. paul

            It was chris cooper, practically one of sayles’ repertory actors.
            Not to be pedantic, just giving someone their dues.

            Was there are better beneficiary of the macarthur award than Sayles?

            1. paul

              In my reading, he took the best out of roger corman, and shone a little light on the ‘way the west was won’.

              i.e. force in pursuit of resources

            2. Michael Fiorillo

              Yes, thanks for the correction.

              And, speaking of Sayles go-to cohort of actors, David Strathairn is also great in the film as the now-forgotten real-life hero, Sid Hatfield.

      3. tegnost

        I think you mean pinkertons, but we haven’t hear from pilkington in a while so maybe we’ll get a sighting? one can always hope… to your point about elections, I can see how the nonstop campaigning keeps the voice of the downtrodden alive enough that people know what their saying and so makes it seem like their issues are on the table, when really it’s just elevator music. At the end the PTB pick their champion and that person will carry their water or (re dylan ratigan on jimmy dore) they will crash the economy.

  4. Wukchumni

    You could have said the same thing in regards to the USSR in the late 1980’s as fallout from the long Afghanistan war was playing out, why aren’t the people getting uppity in the aftermath of Tiananmen Square, but it wasn’t them following the Chinese citizens lead, it was other members of the bloc party putting the kibosh on Communism.

  5. Wukchumni

    You look back at the Vietnam War protests, and it really explodes after Kent State, with an odd one vis a vis unionized construction workers beating on war protesters 4 days later, the Hard Hat Riot.


    It really ramps up from there, lots of 100,000+ protests of quite pissed off people for quite awhile, not the look at me with my pink pussy hat nonsense, nor the faux sit-down strike lending library feel of Occupy, combined with that mock deaf sign language gig. Imagine if Vietnam War protesters had tried the same meekness?

    1. tegnost

      Thanks Wuk, the difference that I witnessed in ’68 was stark, and something that I haven’t seen since. My newly divorced dad had access to an apartment in a dorm at Florida State and as an activist minister always took us out to what was going on on campus during our weekends with him. I distinctly recall lots of people throwing eggs at the protesters. There was serious conflict between the factions. I wouldn’t want to be hit by an egg thrown from a sixth floor window. There were still pretty large race riots going on then too, but that would be a story for another time, my point here would be that we aren’t at each others throats in quire the same way as we were then.

      1. Carey

        >..we aren’t at each others throats in quire the same way as we were then.

        Our betters™ are working on day and night on that one (idPol v1.0, 2.0, 3.0…)

      2. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        In addition to all of the above something more fundamental changed IMO.

        We went from “We” to “Me”.

        1965: the sight of We in misery and pain (being the global We of all of humanity, for example a 9-year old Vietnamese girl with her clothes burned off by American napalm) shook us to our very cores and into determined action.

        2015: It doesn’t affect Me, so I don’t care.

  6. Temporarily Sane

    authors Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J S Davies make the bizarre claim that Occupy failed because it “failed to transition from a rallying point and a decentralized, democratic forum to a cohesive movement that could impact the existing power structure.” Huh? Were they asleep when it was crushed in a `Federally-coordinated 17 city paramilitary crackdown, a mere two months after it launched?

    You’re right that Occupy was stopped cold after it got crushed by the feds but I think you’re missing the point Benjamin and Davis are making.

    Occupy began as a loose, more or less leaderless movement with the goal of drawing public attention to the problems of massive wealth inequality and unregulated finance capitalism. There were some attempts to draft a list of concrete demands and give the movement a more solid core to rally around but a significant majority of Occupiers favored the decentralized leaderless model and strongly opposed this.

    A movement that knows what it doesn’t want, but not what it wants, isn’t going to inspire strong commitment and won’t have a lot of staying power when things start getting rough. And it certainly won’t be strong enough to make the powers that be nervous and uneasy. The Frederick Douglass quote in the piece (“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has and it never will.”) is spot on and pin points exactly why Occupy fizzled out.

    Think back to any popular movement that challenged the prevailing status quo and won. They all stood for something, made specific, non-negotiable demands and were committed to keeping up pressure until those demands were met. Their solidarity and strong sense of purpose gave them the strength to stay the course even when, or especially when, the state tired to destroy them with violence.

    Confronting the forces of global capitalism is not going to be a walk in the park. Observe how Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn, hardly radicals, are smeared and sidelined and the anxiety neoliberals have at the thought of loosening their grip on the economy even just a little bit. It will take a lot more than being “against inequality” and chanting a catchy slogan to get any concessions out of them, let alone change the system.

    1. Polar Donkey

      In Memphis, our uprising is a little more chaotic. Poverty, inequality, and guns are so bad here, the rich and powerful sometime just get gunned down by chance. In a year, the chairman of the chamber of commerce and a bank president shot dead. Police say both by poor young people with guns.

    2. CheezEatinSurrenderMonkey

      Almost down the memory hole as well was the Tea Party movement (at least the avg joes I saw protesting, not every opportunistic politizard that tried to glom on to that energy). People protesting the financial ripoff, one of the biggest ever, also getting marginalized as right-wing, poor white, etc etc etc. Not a peep to be heard from anyone about that.
      I do recall the Occupy folks in front of the SF Fed Reserve bldg for many months. They were generally well behaved and many were making an effort at dialog with passersby. Maybe they should’ve spent time protesting in front of Janet Yellen’s house (or Feinstein’s or Pelosi’s) instead.

    3. Mike

      Indeed, I remember the endless meetings in the Occupy encampments revolving around “consensus” for various actions. All that before the brutal putdown which, BTW, was implemented with the decisions by mayors and governors of Democratic Party bent (pun intended). The antagonism to formal organization probably revolved around the anarchist elements within the Occupy movement, but was also fed by arguments between many of the Leftist organizations/parties that descended upon it to influence and glean members. The fractured nature of the Left since the late 1920s with its “us, not them” attitude does not allow for united front action, and this played out in the individualistic responses of various elements, the most organized being the Berkeley and San Francisco movements that almost had the port and transport sectors compromised.

    4. Yves Smith Post author

      I am quite aware of the arguments. I participated in some Occupy meetings at Zuccotti Park. I did not dignify them because I reject them out of hand.

      Given that it only existed for two months and was by design a bottom’s up structure, the idea that they should be measured by how much they got done in what is political time is the blink of an eye in an absurd demand. You and the authors also assume that the processes underway would not have led to concrete results. This is false, as demonstrated by some of the splinter efforts that managed to survive the breakup, such as Occupy the SEC, Occupy Sandy, and local Occupy Homes groups that fought foreclosures.

      1. Mike

        No movement can be judged solely on what was accomplished in two months. What can be judged is what came out of the initial buildup that lasted and had impact. And, while the various Occupy splinters that did last had a good local impact, the fight against finance and banking took a long while to recover, and we saw tremendous losses during the time that recovery was brewing. Further, the Occupy Wall Street goals became part of a political platform issue with Bernie and Ms. Warren that underwent significant change as to final goals. Unless passed and enforced, regulations will be more hope & change dust.

        In my opinion, your opinion of progressives is correct. We will see dilution of campaign promises that will make Occupy’s demands more relevant, but will demand a larger, well organized movement with national leadership a la Sanders to win any space. If the Democrats are kept at bay.

  7. Harry

    Rise up? I would strongly advise against it. Bullets kill.

    Your best bet is to pick one lawmaker or a set of them and make their lives a living hell.

    1. inode_buddha

      I think the entire boards of the Fortune 500 and all of Congress and K street would be a good start.

  8. TG

    Why don’t American rise up? Because that would be racist! And fascist, and populist, and Literally Hitler.

    Donald Trump was a fake, but he got elected because he gave voice to things that people wanted to hear. Others have said and are saying similar things (Ralph Nader, Jill Stein, etc.) but they have no effect because the corporate press doesn’t cover them (except to occasionally slime them as egoists or Russian agents etc.). The genius of Trump was that he was so outrageous that the media couldn’t silence or ignore him. The tragedy is that he is a buffoon, and even when he tries to do the right thing – like pull us out of a stupid foreign war – he ends up getting over-ruled by the oligarchy, because he doesn’t have the talent or intelligence to handle that sort of administrative challenge.

    We are, I think, preaching to the wrong choir. The rich have too much power and will not be denied by the masses rising up. There is no grass-roots organization that cannot be beaten down, co-opted, ignored, cast as losers and weirdos, etc. Witness the fate of the Reform party, the Green Party, Occupy Wall Street, whatever. We need to make the rich fear that they are going too far and that it will all fall down on their heads. It was, ultimately, fear of anarchists and communists that allowed the New Deal to exist. It is a lack of similar fear that is allowing our oligarchs to run wild.

    The ongoing “trade war” with China is an example. Saying that we shouldn’t let US companies outsource American factories to China because it will devastate the American working class fell on deaf ears. Trade restrictions are evil. Saying that we shouldn’t let US companies outsource American factories to China because our elites will ultimately lose the power and profits and control of those industries, that gets attention. Suddenly, trade restraints aren’t evil. With hindsight, we should have led with that.

    1. John Rose

      Note that the major objection to trade with China is that they steal “our” intellectual property. I know I am not part of that ownership cabal!

  9. The Rev Kev

    “If none of these conditions has so far provoked a new American revolution, what will it take to trigger one?”

    I would say the price of gas going through the roof so that there were limits on how much fuel that you can buy and you could only buy it on the basis if you had an add or even license plate on your car. Sort of like happened in ’73 and ’79. Maybe even rationing. I think that would make people flip their wig in the US.


    1. Wukchumni

      I was a newly minted hellion on wheels in 1979, and don’t remember much in the way of gas lines (my longest was about 1/2 a mile-you wondered how much gas you used in starting & stopping just getting to the pumps?) really causing that much widespread consternation, as it was old hat by then, the 73′ crisis was more of a shock, it being the first time.

  10. NotTimothyGeithner

    The lack of social cohesion is problem one. Individuals don’t have existing structures to rally around or even local pubs where they maintain a regular presence. What jumps about the American Revolution (and Adams was right about the Revolution occurring before 1776) was that it driven by citizen committees who met at bars aND book clubs all the live long day. The delegates at Philadelphia were inundated with demands local councils demanding action.

    The other side Is captured organizations. I mean we have organizations such as Sierra Club and Emily’s List which such up well meaning support if nothe dedicated that is needed to provide a constant level of support for any operation. Too much effort is wasted on appealing to bums like Trumka instead of recognizing the need to replace Trumka.

    My last issue is the perception of the Civil Rights movement as MLK coming down from a mountain to say stop being mean. It was a shock when I learned the lunch counter sit ins weren’t targeting the Bull Connors but their friends, who agreed with their positions just not the methods. I don’t think people understand this. The problem was never Donald Trump. It was always Obama and Bill Clinton (let’s pretend they weren’t completely heinous for the example).

  11. Louis Fyne

    1. America is too atomized—by far-flung family ties, people with non-9-to-5 work hours, far-flung commuting patterns, decline of secular after-work organizations (lodges, knitting circles, etc) for a class-based movement to self-organize.

    2. “progressive” upper 20%-ers don’t want to swing the pendulum too far (see Warren, Sanders) as they have benefited from 25+ years of Clinton-Bush-Obama (or at least stayed stable).

    3. And the non-PC elephant in the room, identity politics splitting the bottom 80% in half over one of a myriad of culture war issues (abortion, immigration, guns, etc).

    1. Off The Street

      Divide et impera
      It worked in prior millennia, and still does.
      The modern version includes many new distractions to supplement the Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.

      1. hamstak

        The contemporary version might also have a slightly different tilt to it: “divide and rule” is now “divide and loot”.

    2. Krystyn Walentka

      Yes to all of this, I mentioned it above also. One thing I noticed the first time I went to europe was seeing kids interacting with elderly strangers.

      To add to it, there seems to be a fear of being “negative” whose fault I place squarely on social media. There is something wrong with you if you are angry which means you must immediately download the latest meditation app so you can blissfully step over the homeless.

    3. The cop is not your friend

      3. And the non-PC elephant in the room, identity politics …

      I’m afraid there’s a much bigger, much badder non-PC elephant that nobody seems to want to address. Nothing is going to improve until we solve the problem posed by the potential- and kinetic-threat personified by the millions of uniformed — armed! — agents of the power stucture, thoughout the land. Getting them to turn against their bosses is probably too much to hope for … but how can we at least get them to stop “following orders” and in so doing betraying the working class (members of which nearly all of them are)? Someone who was non-PC might even ask: ‘what is wrong with these people?’

  12. DJG

    I admire Medea Benjamin, who is one of the few prophetic figures in U.S. politics. And I don’t use the word “prophetic” lightly.

    Yet, as always, Yves Smith gives us an insightful headnote. I believe that YS is correct: Much has to do with the lack of dignity of labor in the U.S. of A., the laws against unions and organizing, the ubiquitous legal regime of at-will and precarious workers who can be fired for the slightest perceived infraction. As Anu Partanen writes in her perceptive book, The Nordic Theory of Everything, she was surprised at how much the upper-middle-class U.S. women she was meeting after her arrival from Finland were obsesssed with making a “good match” (this is within the last fifteen years or so): Finding a husband with a good job and *benefits.*

    Bernie Sanders knows that Medicare for All (with Mental / Dental) would free people from their wage slavery, their bad choices of jobs just for the benefits, and from worries about being hurt in a demonstration and having to explain it. And that’s why we cannot have Medicare for All, Bunky.

    Also, Yves Smith touches what I will happily call the swamp of U.S. religion. It is quiescent. It considers itself mainly a means to heavenly salvation. U.S. Protestantism doesn’t like to soil its hands dealing with the corporal works of mercy.

    And Americans have been conditioned by years of repression of labor activists to think that strikes are dangerously radical. The business of American is business. One must worship the juggernaut. Ironically, the solution here in the U S of A would be a series of rolling general strikes or a weeklong general strike (imagine a weeklong strike led by cabin attendants, pilots, transit workers, and foodstore workers). The predatory state isn’t quite ready to deal with having us withhold our labor–which is exactly why it is missing from the U.S. discussion. Go paint a “witty” sign instead and Instagram yourself…

    Now, if we can only breathe new life into our tattered solidarity to engage in job actions.

    1. notabanktoadie

      U.S. Protestantism doesn’t like to soil its hands dealing with the corporal works of mercy. DJG

      Then it should concern itself with promoting economic justice – so as to minimize the need for mercy.


      But who knows what economic justice is when the Old Testament is so widely ignored or distorted in that regard with a gross overemphasize on sexual sin instead as a distraction?

  13. dcblogger

    I think that Bernie is running a revolution under color of a political campaign. Since Media Benjamin hosted a Bernie debate watch party some months ago (I know, I attended it) she is aware of the Bernie campaign and its unique culture.

    And it is not just the Bernie campaign, there are many people running for office who normally would be chaining themselves to the White House Fence.

    Why get out in the streets when you can take over the entire government?

    1. Anarcissie

      Occupy did not fail. Outside of the hyperbolic ‘shut down Wall Street’, it succeeded in changing the so-called national conversation about income inequality and plutocracy, which was what it was supposed to do. An interesting aspect of it was that, although started and promoted by radicals, it attracted large number of people who were much more in the social-democratic / progressive bag. Most of the proggie leadership, however, were totally uninterested in this phenomenon, except to suppress it or coopt it, so they missed the opportunity the connection afforded. I suspect this was because most of them were and are actually fairly conservative and know which side of their bread the butter is on. Hence I would expect an uprising to come from elsewhere and to be driven by the material condition of the less well-off rather than ideology. That kind of revolt is often unpleasantly crude and difficult for elites to manipulate. In the US, then, it will probably come from the Right.

      Currently, however, most of the folk are bemused by the spectacle of the factional wars of the ruling class now breaking out into the open.

    2. scarn

      Friend, there is no way we take the entire government without taking the streets. The ruling class would never allow that, so we will have to force the issue. The seeds of that street / state alliance are being incubated in the Bernie campaign. Let’s hope they sprout. If we don’t take the streets but win elections, you can be sure the right will use those streets against us.

  14. oaf

    “This closed media system wraps the public in a cocoon of myths, euphemisms and propaganda to leave us exceptionally ignorant about our own country and the world we live in.”

    …As long as we are supplied ignorance, misinformation, entertainment, distraction, and easy credit, we *rise up* by expressing that “someone should do something”….and go back to the wide screen and charge cards…Having done *our part*…

  15. Big River Bandido

    I guess labor action doesn’t count?

    Between teachers and Teamsters, 2018-19 saw more labor unrest than the last 2-3 decades combined. Many of those strikes were “wildcat” strikes in which union “leadership” was almost as much of a target as management. Teachers in Chicago just rolled the school district and the new mayor. Even the Chicago Symphony members conducted a successful strike. This expression of dissatisfaction is not limited to strikes. The New York Musician’s Union, Local 802, also tossed out its entire leadership.

    I think the article is too wedded to its own conception of the “optics” of protest or action, while ignoring the real thing. I, for one, stopped attending marches and demonstrations years ago, as all theater and no story. Possibly they do serve a purpose in energizing new blood, but beyond that they seem to be rather ineffective at actually accomplishing anything. How many of us know people who have “opted out” of even voting, on the grounds that their vote won’t be counted fairly or will be meaningless? Such people are not going to be cajoled into attending a “protest”. Nor would it mean much if they did.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      My view is this is a bit pent up or has previously been held back. I’m a firm believer if the AFL-CIO wasn’t so big with membership divided between more responsive unions there would have been more push back for much longer.

      Faith in Team Blue has been problematic. We should have had strikes as soon as Arne Duncan was appointed Education Secretary from teachers, and everyone else and the teachers should have gone on strike with the announcement of Rahm Emmanuel as White House Chief of Staff.

      Structurally, Americans need to clean the fifth columnists up before the system can be challenged, and I think Occupy taught more people about this problem than was commonly understood. Obama and the Democratic mayors who assisted his crackdown weren’t being held back by mean old Republicans. They were bad themselves.

  16. Edgar David Grana

    Yves Lambert please read this comment this is very important I’m one of your followers from Brooklyn New York I want you to know that none of your blogs are appearing in my search bar anymore I have to type in the name of your blog and then hit search that used to come up automatically it’s something I always go to your traffic is being terribly slow down

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Thanks for letting us know. I believe you are complaining that Google no longer autofills for NC. I suggest you bookmark NC so you don’t need to rely on Google.

      However, I had another reader just test and he had Naked Capitalism come up as the first choice as soon as he typed in “naked”. He reads the site regularly, so the varying results appear to be the result of Google’s personalization.

    2. Acacia

      Not to be too pedantic here, but I believe the auto-completion of “nakedcapitalism.com” in the main input field of a modern web browser is generally something done by the browser itself, using a local cache. Next, there is a drop-down menu from the input field that is populated using both the local cache and whichever search engine is set as the default (generally Google, but depending on the browser you can change this). Safari divides the drop-down menu into labeled sections that identify where the results are coming from (e.g., Google, Bookmarks, History, etc.).

      Like Arizona Slim, I have a permanent bookmark to NC. This is the most sure-fire solution and by doing a basic name lookup and then jumping direct to NC it doesn’t provide Google with analytics (the less data they get from us, the better).

  17. smoker

    It’s pretty clear that Madea is totally insulated from the millions she implicitly chides. Unlike Career Activists, with well funded connections and ivy league pedigrees (in her case: Tufts; Columbia; and the New School) who literally make an income from their Career Activism, the average person’s life can be totally destroyed in these times of 24/7 surveillance, which means that those who depend on thems’ lives may be destroyed also. If they’re a nobody, its also a sure bet that they will spend far more time in jail than the hour or so the Career Activist jail visit hits the headlines; and it certainly won’t varnish the average persons ‘social score’ as it does the Career Activist’s.

    I have no use for her, and I’d love to see the residence she took up while in San Francisco, along with her current residence in DC.

    1. Dan

      I agree. I’ve never trusted Medea Benjamin. I think she’s more enamored with being Medea Benjamin than she is angered by the injustices she purports to be addressing. Her antics don’t help change peoples’ hearts and minds. She’s like a caricature of what an uninformed layperson would think of as an “activist.” I don’t know what goes on inside her head, obviously. But from the outside, she comes across as being much more silly than earnest.

      Optics are important. If someone down at Langley was given the task of creating an activist persona which would induce in much of the masses farcical and ultimately antipathetic feelings towards “left” causes, a Medea Benjamin-type would probably get good reviews from the superiors.

  18. Lorenzo Raymond

    “Why aren’t Americans rising up in peaceful protest like our neighbors?”

    These protests aren’t peaceful by US standards. In Ecuador they had to take police officers hostage before their demands were met.

  19. Misty Flip

    The cosmic irony is that according to Engels, economic crisis will spark political revolution and the state will wither away, a common Marxist sentiment. Neoliberalism has nearly the same sentiment, political crisis will spark a economic revolution and the state, in the form of regulation, will whither away. It’s the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle: “Are the people’s grievances economic in nature or political in nature?” Just a matter of perspective. Crisis is the common denominator. As soon the rabble breaks out the balaclavas, finance folks can’t wait to install a real hard_$$ with insatiable avarice to enforce order. As soon as the caudillo’s secret police break out the balaclavas, pedestrians can’t wait for a firebrand Marxist with insatiable grievance to enforce the revolution. Two-sides of the same coin. “Perplexed” is right.

  20. sharonsj

    According to some new poll, 70% of Americans struggle to pay bills (mostly rent and utilities). They aren’t out in the streets (yet) mostly due to corporate media never explaining why people are struggling because it can’t bite the hands that feed it.

  21. Susan the Other

    I think that if the 1% were actually in control of anything their art collections would be solid investments. Their real estate would only fluctuate at a minimum. Climate change would be theirs to manage. The 1% are in reality the piddly little Wizard of Oz. If everyday Americans don’t know they have the power, they aren’t paying attention. 3.5% amounts to @ 12 million of us, and we are 3 times as many as the rich 1%… So we easily outnumber the hapless managers of our hapless country. But that’s not really the point. Our hapless elected leaders are, for the most part, with us – they’re just caught between a rock and a hard place. They are panicked at how they screwed everything up. The rich are taking what they see as their “last chance” to set the world right (for capitalism – they’re wrong on that – it should be socialism and they should stop being reactionary). In the end, Imo, our great goofy gutless leaders will prove themselves to be the ones who were chickenshit to demand and effectuate change. We ordinary people demand it with everything we do and on a daily basis. They just hunker down and try to hide. Their cowardice is despicable. As Daffy would say.

    1. Tyronius

      The assertion that the Progressive Movement is based in religion lacks evidence and in fact runs directly counter to my own personal experience as a DSA member. Maybe it was true 100 years ago- but that’s (by definition) ancient history, beating little relevance to the current situation. Just thought I’d point that out before someone starts spewing that trope as gospel fact.

      1. JBird4049

        The trope was true fifty years but not only is organized religion declining, the remainder has been captured by elements of neoliberalism, the prosperity gospel, and the co-opting of opportunistic leadership by the “conservative” big business, the wealthy, and their minions. Just look at the Moral Majority and the later Tea Party. Subverted and neutered by the “conservative” political establishment.

      2. Yves Smith Post author

        I suggest you read the Richard Kline post we linked to above before handwaving. Kine would depict DSA as radicals, not progressives, and so your assertion regarding DSA is no refutation.

        Moreover, Kline does not say that progressives are literally religious but their tradition and sensibilities are strongly influenced by religious (Protestant) values that they have internalized.

        1. Amfortas the hippie

          -and i’ll say again that…in the same way that the counterinsurgency used the methods of the original Evangelists to grow their Movement from the ground up(see: Weyrich)…so should the Left/left/”left”.
          Go among the Mundane and talk about a New New Deal…as that’s the only counter we have to the corporate megaphone.
          …and as far as actual religious feeling/sentiment being on the decline…yes, it is, if you look at church attendance, etc…but the Language still has purchase just about everywhere i go(limited/anecdote, i know,lol)…it’s the rootcode of our civilisation, like it or not
          and the jesus-speak of the Social Gospel needn’t rely on belief in a higher power to be effective….it’s Humanism for the hoi polloi and other assorted very busy, put upon people, otherwise disconnected from politics and policy.

          1. JBird4049

            I’m just being conspiratorial here away here using no deep knowledge or thought, but I wonder if the displacement of the Social Gospel and the newer Liberation Theology by the blasted Prosperity Gospel was deliberate? You could make a case that Jesus’ religious ideology is socialist, maybe even communist. Oh the horrors.

            The creation of the evangelical organization “the Family” with its own gospel of the elect which Vice President Mike Pence belongs too indirectly suggest that. A displacement of God wanting you to care for the poor, but God wants the properous people, and this means you, successful.

            1. Amfortas the hippie

              ive had that same thought, over and over, for most of my life,lol…having lived in the cracks near the front row to that shitshow. i first read the bible at 13 or so(never been a xtian)…to try to better understand the people around me.
              and that part never made sense.
              later, i learned that it was a conspiracy…the corporate right/would-be-aristocracy effectively hijacked xtianity for their own purposes.
              when i was still on faceborg, and would be confronted by some religious nutter spewing hellfire..i’d express sympathy that his faith had been stolen from him so blatantly, and turned to the service of Mammon.
              almost always made them retreat, to go splutter confusedly elsewhere(yes, i used sockpuppets for all that virtual fieldwork, so i could follow loonies into their caves)
              with my latest accidental acquisition, a “military bible”(!?), i have around 18 different versions of that book in my library.
              in all of them, the stance of the actual christ on these matters is glaringly clear.
              that the PTB have been able to so thoroughly upend the foundational tenets of a major world religion is simply astounding(like a constantinian shift V2)

  22. Stephen Gardner

    No US uprising can happen until enough people have stopped worshiping the wealthy, believing that “free markets” exist and are the best possible way to allocate resources, and that America is the only model worth emulating. I see a lot of people with bleak outlooks here. They are assuming that nothing will ever change because the bad guys are too powerful. They are expecting a green fruit to fall from the tree. When the fruits of neoliberal excess are ripe enough people will hate the system enough to consider it evil not merely misguided and in need of reform. When that critical mass is reached it will not matter how violently TPTB attempt to repress those who demand change. One year before the Shah of Iran left for Egypt no one could imagine him falling. When I was a kid, the idea that the USSR would some day cease to exist was unthinkable: “Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia” (and always would be at war). Every system of oppression appears invulnerable until shortly before it falls. Then everyone says: “Who could have predicted it?”
    If it is any comfort to any of you, I have had many conversations with very conservative people here in Texas who are beginning to see the flaws in our “god given free enterprise system”. And the more mayhem in the health care industry and the more income loss (not job loss–substitution of low income jobs for good income jobs with no change in the unemployment rate) the more traditionally conservative people see the flaws. It takes time. We Americans expect instant change and it just doesn’t work that way. The more guys that make just enough to get by while working for a CEO that makes tens of millions the people see the light. One day a spark will set off the tinder and it will be like one of those California wild fires. The vegetation builds up and isn’t allowed to burn until it becomes the fuel for something unstoppable.

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      “If it is any comfort to any of you, I have had many conversations with very conservative people here in Texas who are beginning to see the flaws in our “god given free enterprise system”.”

      that’s exactly my experience in rural central texas, as well…and in and around the san antonio medical center.
      especially if one avoids the numerous triggerwords/terrorwords that induce reaction and/or parrot noises(like “socialism”).
      ignore/pass over folks with american flag pins or GOP approved tee shirts, and manage to get a random person separated from the herd for a quiet moment, and there’s a lot of agreement, pent up and bubbling, that things suck…and that the “leadership”/boss-class hates us’n’s.
      the sense of relief in these people when they suddenly realise that they ain’t alone…and that it’s OK to feel that way…is remarkable.
      and the look of almost shock that they(if thy’re a redneck) can agree jot and tittle with a radical hippie guy talking about the working class(the operant conditioning suddenly falling away) is priceless.

  23. notabanktoadie

    The diagnosis is easy – grossly unjust inequality.

    The cure isn’t that hard either nor would it cause anyone to suffer – except perhaps foreigners since welfare proportional to account balance would be eliminated in favor of an equal Citizen’s Dividend. Otoh, the DEMAND for US dollars would be GREATLY increased by allowing everyone to use them in account form and by eliminating all other privileges for banks as well – so foreigners might not suffer much loss.

    1. notabanktoadie

      Adding that while the cure isn’t that hard, it has been UNTHINKABLE until recently, e.g. negative interest rates on risk-free debt, e.g. accounts for all at the Central Bank.

      So thanks to pioneers like Steve Keen, the MMT crowd and indeed Mr. Market (for confirming the sanity of negative interest rates on risk-free debt).

      So let’s eschew violence and let truth continue to win over error.

  24. Tim

    The irony right now is our limited Democratic socialistic welfare policies and private nonprofit donations are keeping discord at bay. Also economic success has turned so quickly that the older generation “haves” are able to support their offspring have-nots at home, keeping them at bay as well.

    Other countries don’t have those fall backs. I thought it was a pretty well known idea that once the breadwinner sees their children on a path to starvation, they have nothing to lose and show up in the streets.

    That brings up another variable Most of the young generation don’t have kids, so they don’t feel like being martyrs for a lost cause. They will just make the best of a bad situation.

    Lastly the swift change in economic fortune, and propaganda leaves the younger have nots feeling like their failure is all their fault.

  25. RBHoughton

    I have not read the many comments this article elicited and apologise if I am reciting an opinion already published.

    Yves’ introduction is more persuasive than the article itself. I wish Medea had attended closer to what she has to say. She is an admirable woman, regularly displaying courage when it has become a rare commodity. I believe we people who wish to change the world should liaise constantly, spare our friends when they fall below expectations, and keep the faith that success in a just cause is both possible and to be expected.

  26. scarn

    Benjamin is straight up wrong, and she should know better.

    The issue is repression. The US police are better armed and more murderous and violent than most. The US is a carceral nation at a level that has hardly been surpassed in modern history. There is no safety net. There are no second chances. You can be murdered by cops and they will say you deserved it. They will say you were just in the wrong place. They can take your children, they can take your job, they track and know your secrets. We have no allies among the liberal elite on this. They use property destruction or civil disobedience as an excuse to destroy human lives. Look at Ferguson, look at Standing Rock, remember OWS. Look at what happened to the radicals of the last century.

    Bosses fire people with impunity. There is very little union organizing. There is very little recourse. My own partner is afraid to put a Bernie sticker on her car because she knows she will probably be fired if she does.

    We have incarceration rates that are comparable to the USSR during the height of class repression under Stalinism. Unlike Stalinism, USA internal terror is being visited not on wealthy peasants, craftspeople, political dissidents, and unfortunate bystanders, but on the worst off of the working class. It’s an ongoing horror perpetrated by the owners that serves to remind the rest of us what happens to Americans who break their rules. And it’s absolutely effective.

    1. JBird4049

      Oh, it is not just the worse off of the working class, it is just about anyone at all who is in the bottom 80%. We have our own American Gulag Archipelago. At least no one yet is disappearing into the night and the fog, but yes the police in some places can kill you with little threat of any repercussion at all.

  27. Marc Erickson

    George Carlin said the below about politicians, but I think it applies here too:

    “Everybody complains about politicians. Everybody says they suck. Well, where do people think these politicians come from? They don’t fall out of the sky. They don’t pass through a membrane from some other reality.

    They come from American parents, American families, American homes, American schools, American churches, American businesses, American universities, and they’re elected by American citizens.

    This is the best we can do, folks. This is what we have to offer. It’s what our system produces. Garbage in…garbage out.

    If you have selfish, ignorant citizens…if you have selfish, ignorant citizens, you’re gunna get selfish, ignorant leaders. And term limits ain’t gunna do ya any good. You’re just gunna wind up with a brand new bunch of selfish, ignorant Americans [leaders].”


  28. Adam Eran

    I’d suggest one thing that contributes to the difficulty of organized protest is sprawl design of cities now. It eliminates pedestrians, and eliminates public space. Town squares were common. Now it’s private space: the mall (and lately online shopping). People are still meeting, but virtually (like NC).

    Even things like public meeting rooms available free are increasingly difficult to find. Little irritants, but they matter.

  29. George Phillies

    “They Have the Guns but We Have the Numbers”

    Ummh, this is America.
    Guns in government hands – 3-5 million.
    Guns in private hands ca. 300 million, including by household modestly under half the population.

    To the best of my recollection, there have been two occasions in which there were really large public protests against the legitimacy of a Federal election. The recent one was 2016. The less recent one was 1860. Under Nixon, there were lots of antiwar demos, but they were fundamentally antiwar. Readers might find it of interest to read Potter’s The Impending Crisis on 1845-1860 and Asymmetric Politics (the latter recommendation goes double for European eaders.)

    Press analysis of the attack on Occupy was disappointing.

    1. JBird4049

      The American Revolution might be another good example. It also shows just how quickly things could go bad. When the Seven Years War ended 1763 no one expected a civil war, which is what the Revolutionary War was, only twelve years later. It is an excellent example of how to annoy a basically loyal population into a revolt.

      Complaints, then written protest, followed by blockheaded “solutions”, then physical protests, followed by repression, then violent protests, followed by overly broad punishments, then oops, a war. IIRC many of the people in the militia at Lexington and Concord were veterans of the last war, which is one of the reasons for the first unit of soldiers had to be rescued by reinforcements.

      The British government pretty much fluffed of the reports, complaints, and suggestions of the local governments and the loyalists, which included people like Benjamin Franklin, and did mostly what it should not have done.

      The American Civil War was see coming by some when the Constitution was approved or 73 years. It was a loooong increasingly violent process until the Southern leadership basically said screw this, we’re outta here. People see that slavery was going to probably kill the Republic. However, no one could find any successful way to deal with the Peculiar Institution without either making it permanent or ending it without violence.

      I would think that the memo written by Lewis Powell, now labeled the Powell Memorandum (of course!) in 1971, just before he becomes a Supreme Court Justice in 1972 would be a good starting date of the current countdown to whatever is going to explode in our faces soon. So far it’s 48 years and counting. I do not think that Mr. Powell was being mean, or even foresaw what would happen including the fantastic wealth disparity and the corruption. I think he would be horrified. True, he was a very conservative anti communist, but those conservatives of fifty years ago were not like the current “conservatives” of today.

  30. sierra7

    I support any work that Medea B. does….that being said:
    Americans will never revolt in the sense of overthrowing our oligarchic government.
    If they didn’t do it response to the Patriot Act then they won’t do it in any case.
    There is more fascism, racism, white supremacy, hypocrisy, jealously and just plain “social” ignorance in most of the US population and of course the biggie: “Historical Ignorance”. No measure of social consciousness.
    Everything is ruled now by technology; if u don’t have most of it you can’t “manage” your search for or be a good job candidate or even maintain a job.
    More Bottom Line:
    Americans are not really suffering anything……yet.
    You can’t deny history: No population has not rebelled and no ruling class has ever survived when conditions for the citizens become insufferable and the ruling class continues to play waltzes and bloats on the spoils.
    We just haven’t reached that point……yet.

  31. RWood

    “These charges are clearly part of a troubling pattern,” said Glen Frieden, spokesperson for the Tucson 12’s support committee. “Increasingly, police and prosecutors are levying accusations of ‘rioting’ against any political activity that challenges the existing state of affairs. It happened at Standing Rock, it happened at the protests against Donald Trump’s inauguration, and now we see it here in Tucson.”

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