by Robert Freeman
The media are awash with talking heads bloviating about the top stories of the last decade. The wired-in society. The growth of organic food. The new frugality. This is the ritual that reveals their true function in the culture: pacification. It's their way of signaling the masses that Bigger Thinkers are looking after things, so go back to your Wii or Survivor or Facebook reveries.
The amazing thing is how little is ever mentioned about the stories that really mattered, those that affected the very nature of our society, its institutions, and the relation of the people to their state and society.
Those stories paint a picture of danger, of a people who have lost control of their government and the corporations that own it. But you'll hear nary a word about such difficult truths from any storyteller in the conventional media.
So here, in no particular order, are my Top Ten Stories of the Naughties, the ones that really matter.
- The Supreme Court hijacking the 2000 presidential election. This isn't even a historical controversy anymore. Al Gore won the national popular vote by 570,000. And we now know he would have won the Florida vote as well if the vote counting had not been stopped by the Supreme Court. This was literally a right wing judicial coup d' etat, so it's understandable that it's never mentioned in the "right" kind of circles.
- Bush knew of 9/11 long before it actually happened. Three years before Bush took office, the neo-cons' Project For a New American Century called for a "new Pearl Harbor" to galvanize the nation into a war to seize Middle East oil. And even before the event itself, Bush-as-president was warned dozens of times of the imminent attack, the most notorious being the August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing titled, "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S". Amazingly nothing was done to prevent the attack. But even less is it advertised that Bush knew.
- Iraq was all premised on lies, yet we're still there. Saddam Hussein wasn't pursuing Weapons of Mass Destruction. He wasn't involved in 9/11. He wasn't engaged with Al Qaeda. As with the 2000 election hijacking, we know all these things. And we know they were false at the time they were proffered. Yet, there we are, with no intent to leave, our very presence spitting in the face of International Law and the international community we so unctuously pretend to respect.
- The Global War on Terror. Or more specifically, the ease with which the "GWOT" has replaced the Cold War as the justification for the ever-increasing militarization of society. What happened to the post-Cold War "Peace Dividend"? The U.S continues to spend more on the military than all the rest of the world combined. It continues to maintain over 700 military bases around the world. And it continues to manufacture excuses for foreign interventions whenever weapons makers and military logistics companies need more profits — which is forever.
- The fact that 2/3 of all economic growth went to top 1%. John Kennedy's social contract had a rising tide lifting all boats. But over the last decade 2/3 of all economic growth has gone to the top 1% of income earners. Meanwhile the middle class has suffered a $13 trillion writedown in wealth as a result of the housing collapse. The banking bailout and the health care "reform" debate showed as never before the extent to which corporations have captured government and use it to redirect national wealth to themselves and their owners.
- The Neo-Feudalization of the American economy. The top 1% of wealth holders own 41% of all the assets in the country while the bottom 40% own absolutely nothing. Meanwhile, workers are saddled with $12 trillion of national debt, an effective indentured servitude that will bind them to their corporate masters for the rest of their lives. This is the working definition of feudalism, where the rich own everything and everybody else has nothing but their proffered labor and their obligations to their masters. The Hapsburgs, the Tudors, and the Bourbons would be jealous.
- The surrender of civil liberties. Despite the Fourth Amendment supposedly protecting us against unreasonable searches and seizures, the government can now read your email and listen to your phone calls without any probable cause. The Obama administration has gone to court to prevent the re-institution of Habeas Corpus, suspended during the Bush administration. We are much less free, much less protected from brutalization by our own government than we were just ten years ago.
- The failure of "the free market" to sustain prosperity. The "free market" has long been an ideological dodge used to resist real government regulation of the economy. Still, the ideal was supposed to deliver prosperity in a stable, sustainable matter. Now we have the greatest global economic collapse since the Great Depression, with the government transferring $11 trillion to the banks to cover their sociopathically greedy bets that went bust. All in the name of deregulation, with future regulation vigorously resisted. Is this a deranged country or what?
- The collapse of the media. We once imagined it would guard the hen house. Yet that was an anomaly, a freak event around Vietnam and Watergate when it slipped its leash. Since then, sixty independent media outlets have consolidated into five, all retailing the ideology of the powerful, the perpetrators, laundering their lies, covering up the truth, and harassing the truth tellers. In every story mentioned above, the mainstream media have worked to ensure that the people didn't know the truth about the forfeiture of their government, their wealth, their security, and their rights.
- The meaninglessness of elections. This is the most embittering revelation of all. Despite the greatest electoral majority since Johnson crushed Goldwater in '64, Barrack Obama has betrayed everything he ran on. In every case where he had the opportunity to confront power — in financial bailouts, financial regulation, health care, wars and military spending, utilities and global warming, national surveillance — Obama has sided with the rich and powerful against the interests of the American people. He has probably engendered more cynicism, more disaffection with government than any president since Richard Nixon. It will deal a staggering blow to the hopes of mobilizing masses of people again for a real takeback of government. And he's not even one year into it.
History paints decades with broad brushes-the Roaring Twenties, The Depression, World War II. Historians will look back on the Naughts as the time when Americans Lost Their Country. It was the decade when all the institutions that they believed would protect them — the media, the courts, Congress, the market, a messianic new president — in fact betrayed them. It will forever more be a different country.
But not just yet. Did I tell you about the big move to locally-grown produce?