License Unlimited: Governmental Power in the Days of Pandemic


Scenes from the Rally to Reopen New Hampshire, 04/18/2020

The pandemic had discredited, shattered, and exposed many of our patriotic myths, though perhaps none of them are as salacious as the claim that the American government fears its citizens, and that this enduring “fear of the people” has stayed the hand of many a would-be tyrant or despot. When we promote this self-aggrandizing superstition, we seek to persuade ourselves of our supremacy—a supremacy earned, paradoxically enough, through our subservient relationship to the state—and simultaneously to reassure ourselves of our government’s impotence—an impotence developed, as you can probably imagine, through the state’s dominion over us. Fortunately, the incoherence of this creed has been irreversibly exposed in the time of the coronavirus, as the American people have submitted to their government’s repressive measures—unfathomable to those who have long believed in the “fear of the people”, but hardly unprecedented for this unfree nation.

According to the government, that amorphous institution of unlimited control, it reluctantly and humbly adopted these measures in order to protect its citizens from an uncommonly lethal disease. The American people have accepted this explanation, remarkably reminiscent of the justification for the revocation of civil liberties after 9/11, with nary a timid question or critique: six weeks into the pandemic, and there is still no popular discourse challenging the government’s motivation in sentencing three hundred million people to house arrest. The only controversy surrounds the need for, or efficacy of, such a massive lockdown: “Is this necessary? Is it working?” The official debate must adhere to the intellectual template approved by the government, the template stating that the government has always had the best intention, even if its actions were ill-advised.


You probably don’t need to be reminded that this is the same framework with which every foreign policy debate is introduced: we are told that the American government intended to do the right and honorable thing when it annihilated another nation (for imperialist violence is our foreign policy), but mistakes were made and the wrong, undesired outcome was achieved. Faith in our government remains paramount precisely because it attenuates and suffocates our intellect. Why else would we hear President Trump’s most bloodthirsty critics demand that his government continue to revoke the people’s freedom of movement? Conversely, why are those who are demanding an end to these restrictions sporting pro-Trump, pro-Republican Party merchandise at rallies in New Hampshire and elsewhere? It is because these groups cannot operate outside the structural limitations of state propaganda: in their mind, the government must provide the solution.


In the US, Anti-War Progressives are Political Niggers (by D. Pearce SSC)


The following essay was written by D. Pearce SSC. He received his Masters in Applied American Politics & Policy from Florida State University in 2015. Before enlisting in the US Army, he worked for the Democratic Party as a public relations specialist, and now runs an eponymous YouTube channel, which you can find here.

Have you had the pleasure yet of someone calling you a Bernie Bro, even after you have already sworn off your political allegiance to Bernie Sanders?

Throughout the 2019-2020 Democratic Primary the Senator from Vermont and two-time failed Presidential hopeful repeatedly Russia-gated himself, played unity games with the DNC and stifled his own movement by refusing to leave the defensive crouch position. Eventually Bernie Sanders bought himself a sturdy pair of kneepads and went on to full-throatedly endorse Joe Biden for President. For many, like myself, this was too much. People who thought in Sanders they had a real fighter in the ring for human-centered political aspirations have had to renounce their support of the Sanders, whose legacy will now forever disappointingly boil down to being more a pressure-release valve on the American Left than any kind of progressive Mike Tyson. Up-punching corporate overlords silly for the sake of passing Medicare For All and ending wars seemed too much for the old man’s heart. Albeit mediocre, Bernie’s final moments in the political spotlight will still nonetheless perhaps lead to 60-75% of his supporters “voting Blue no matter who.” I wonder what Bernie’s going to do now with all those millions of leftover cash from his contributors, now that the General Election is coming up…

When you think about it, Bernie Sanders has turned out to be quite the feather-in-the-cap for Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.

You, reader, may have watched the 2020 Primary and had Sanders and others you thought progressive violently dash your hopes of a better future arriving sooner rather than later. The ship of Americans awaking to the reality that is their collective American political nightmare and voting themselves into a better world, closer to less militarism and debt-free education/healthcare, has crashed onto the shores of neoliberalism in 2020.


The Oligarchs Must Support Joe Biden


The oligarchs’ and powerbrokers’ conspicuous reluctance to hand Donald Trump the presidential reins has escaped the understanding of even the shrewdest political critics for five years running. Why were they so visibly uncomfortable with Trump, whose affability with weapons contractors, support of feudal economics, and penchant for brutal law enforcement were never in doubt? The answer to this question is surprisingly lucid, but it did not become so ‘til it was approached through the miasma of Joe Biden’s presidential campaign. Next Saturday will mark a full year since Biden commenced his quest for the Democratic Party’s nomination, a typically grueling and demanding process through which he has floated rather docilely. He was preserved, even embalmed, protected from the fusillade of skeptical questions any other candidate must and did face. Who coddled him through this brutal affair? The same puissant people who had such remarkable reservations about Trump. Why did they shield him? For the same reason: to save face in the midst of an existential crisis.

A person navigates a midlife crisis by constructing an artificial neo-adolescence, and a comparable process occurs among nations. The American Empire is in visible decline, and as it perceives its own mortality, it reverts to the crude impulses of its youth. Trump is the most garish symptom of this regression, a puerile fantasy come to life. He, or it, would not be pursued under ordinary, stable circumstances—but these are extraordinary, unstable times. A healthy civilization would not select Trump as its political, intellectual, or spiritual leader—but this is a decidedly unhealthy nation. It is not to say that Trump departs ideologically from the American presidents of yesteryear, but his irrationally ephebic style belies our society’s hollow and flimsy foundations. We cannot help but look upon Trump with unease, perhaps even nausea or malaise, and in our skepticism, the oligarchs are threatened ever so slightly—not in their person, but in their position.

Such was their motivation to support Hillary Clinton so generously in 2016. Her policies were not significantly different from Trump’s, which is really a gentle way of explaining that both of them were equally loyal to the corrupt establishment. Nonetheless, her placid professionalism contrasted sharply with Trump’s bellicosity, and because the former is much more effective—at least for the oligarch’s purpose of pretending “the system” is both functional and stable—Clinton earned their unequal patronage. The mainstream media, empowered by corporate funding, depicted her as the preferable candidate, perhaps even as the required candidate; however, this had the ironical effect of refashioning Trump as the underdog, a historically adored archetype that stands at the center of so many American myths. Did this reversal—or assignation—of roles play to Trump’s unexpected benefit? At the very least, the establishment tipped its hand, the same hand it plays in all elections, including the present contest.


Obama’s Casual Electoral Interference

The relentless proselytization, rigid dogmatism, and hyper-partisanship of the Trumpish Age have exposed our susceptibility to crude propaganda, and our distasteful appreciation for the same. Lost is our basic expectation of political neutrality in the popular press: after many decades of skeptical criticism of these informative institutions, we have joyously abandoned our search for objectivity and have pursued reassurance. Generally, this is reassurance of our infallible accuracy in all of our own assumptions and judgments; more specifically, it is confirmation of the moral and intellectual perfection of our favorite politicians. Our beloved representatives cannot do wrong—such, at least, is the implicit message of our trusted journalists, who write in the service of, rather than about, the representatives of their political party. Because we believe that these politicians and these writers are working toward the same desirable goal, we think nothing of their incestuous bond—perhaps literally, as the relationship itself tends to escape our notice.

Only in an age of shameless partiality could Ryan Lizza write in defense of Barack Obama, whose role in tilting the Democratic Party presidential primaries was finally exposed in a piece published by Politico. Truly one of the more astonishing essays written in this unfinished year, it is chillingly titled “Barack Obama Wins the Democratic Primary”, and it explains how Obama broke his own promise to remain neutral in this contest, now effectively settled. Despite continuously declaring, despite repeatedly lying, that he wouldn’t interfere in the primaries, many of Obama’s “aides now concede that behind the scenes Obama played a role in nudging things in Biden’s direction”. This “nudge”, as they humbly describe it, included personal phone calls to Buttigieg and Klobuchar to persuade them to endorse Biden instead of Bernie Sanders. Presumably, these conversations were more cordial than his discussion with Debbie Wasserman Schultz in the summer of 2016, when he ordered her to resign from the Democratic National Committee.