Brave new McWorld

By Carla Binion


December 16, 1999 | Rutgers political science professor Benjamin Barber says in "Jihad vs. McWorld" that today's corporate culture spins a shimmering scenario of "corporate forces that demand integration and uniformity and that mesmerize people everywhere with fast music, fast computers, and fast food � with MTV, Macintosh, and McDonald's, pressing nations into one commercially homogenous theme park: a veritable McWorld tied together by communications, information, entertainment and commerce. " 

In this fast-paced, mesmerized McWorld the public attention flits rapidly from one important news story to the next. Now we see Impeachment; now we don't! Now we see Seattle; now we're off to something else! The public has no time to digest and assimilate news events and their lessons.

The corporate spin on globalization is eerily cheerful, despite the fact that the gap between rich and poor is widening. Barber says government leaders are intimidated by today's market ideology. No one dares question the conventional wisdom about free trade. The conventional wisdom says that globalization is inevitable, and that our democratic traditions are obsolete.

Barber quotes Felix Rohatyn: "There is a brutal Darwinian logic to these markets.  They are nervous and greedy.  They look for stability. . . but what they reward is not always our preferred form of democracy. " Capitalism wants to tame democracy, says Barber, and capitalism does not mind tyranny as long as it secures "stability. " 

In the same interview where George W.  Bush failed to name the leaders of four different countries, Bush also said he thought the coup in Pakistan was a good thing because it would help bring "stability" to the region.  If Bush recommends tyrant's coups to "bring stability" to other nations, would he also favor tyrannical oppression for "stability's" sake in this country?     

The message of globalization is that democracies are old-fashioned and that "tyranny to secure stability" is bright and shiny new. No matter how much confectioner's sugar the globalization flacks sprinkle on the message, this is not good news for the ever-shrinking American middle-class. It is especially bad news considering the very rich have used violence and deception to control and divide the working class throughout this nation's history. In McWorld, can we still learn from history?

The McNews networks have obliterated important lessons from history as recently as the Seattle demonstrations. Network news did not cover the fact that a Seattle physician reported that the rubber bullets police used on peaceful demonstrators tore off part of a person's jaw and smashed the teeth of many nonviolent protesters. Peaceful demonstrators had tear gas injuries, including damage to eyes and skin. One Seattle reporter was thrown to the pavement, handcuffed, and thrown into a van, even though the correspondent showed credentials. Corporate owned news networks did not interview the nonviolent protesters who were injured by "stability" enforcing police.

Like terrorist death squads in third world countries, U.S. vigilante police sometimes ignore legal formalities and practice unlawful torture on nonviolent strikers or peaceful protesters.  Folksinger Woodie Guthrie once sang, "Well, what is a vigilante man? Tell me, what is a vigilante man?. . . Would he shoot his brother and sister down?"[1] Apparently for Seattle police, the answer was yes.

In McWorld, not only is democracy out of date, but labor concerns are also antiquated.  However, for those of us not living entirely in a McWorld-induced trance, it is useful to reflect on the way U.S. corporations and certain government agencies have tried to divide and oppress the working class at previous moments in history.  A close look at corporations' long-term oppression of the middle class indicates where unbridled capitalism will take McWorld's cheerful tyrants in the future.

Corporate and government leaders have long used police and National Guardsmen and even federal troops to break strikes and crush progressive movements. The copper miners' strike of 1892 in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho was broken when the governor brought in the National Guard, reinforced by federal troops. Union leaders were fired, scabs were reinstated and six hundred miners were imprisoned. (That is about the same number of people arrested in Seattle. Senator-activist Tom Hayden said that of the 587 arrested in Seattle, virtually all were nonviolent. ) 

For a Carnegie Steel workers' strike in 1892, the governor of Pennsylvania brought in state troops to protect strikebreakers and crush strike leaders, arresting the entire Strike Committee. [2] If anyone doubts corporate/government leaders would use such force to bring "stability" today, we only have to once again remember Seattle �if McWorld will stop spinning long enough to allow the memory to resurface intact, that is.

In 1885, a labor meeting was held in Chicago's Haymarket Square.  A bomb exploded, wounding sixty-six policemen and killing seven. Historian Howard Zinn writes, "Some evidence came out that a man named Rudolph Schnaubelt, supposedly an anarchist, was actually an agent of the police, an agent provocateur, hired to throw the bomb and thus enable the arrest of hundreds, causing the destruction of the revolutionary leadership in Chicago. But to this day it has not been discovered who threw the bomb. "[3] Seattle's violent disruptions might also have been instigated by provocateurs, but even contemplating such a question is taboo in today's McCulture.

Lack of evidence in the Haymarket incident did not matter. Police arrested eight "anarchist" leaders. A jury sentenced them all to death. George Bernard Shaw and a number of prominent Americans were outraged because they considered the trials a railroading. There was a march of 25,000 in Chicago, and 60,000 people signed petitions to Illinois Governor Altgeld, who later pardoned the three prisoners who had not already died.  Will future McWorld leaders even allow a George Bernard Shaw to speak or 25,000 to march without shattering their jaws with rubber bullets?  

In more recent history, during the 1960s, the FBI used surveillance and agents provocateurs to foster division within protest organizations. [4] Senate hearings in the 1970s (the Church committee hearings) showed that the FBI worked to discredit and destroy certain civil rights and women's liberation groups. The Senate report showed that FBI informants infiltrated leftwing groups, disrupted their plans, and even encouraged members to kill one another or tried to destroy their personal lives. [5]

The Church committee report states that the FBI wiretapped Martin Luther King, Jr., and made a systematic effort to knock him "off his pedestal and to reduce him completely in influence. "[6] The FBI smeared King, lying about him to congressmen and university officials.  Thirty-four days before King was to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, he received an anonymous tape in the mail �a tape that recorded King's extramarital affairs.  The Senate report showed that Assistant FBI director William Sullivan wrote King a letter saying:  "King, there is only one thing left for you to do. You know what it is.  You have just 34 days in which to do it. "[7] King understood this to mean Sullivan was urging him to commit suicide. This is what tyrants do in order to "stabilize" the disenfranchised.  

Corporate/governmental brutality toward nonviolent protesters is nothing new in this country's history. The mainstream media's neglect is not unusual either.

Journalist Michael Parenti reveals how the mainstream press often shows an anti-labor, anti-protester bias.  For example, major newspapers have no "labor" section to go along with their business section.  Strikes and protests are usually covered from the management or corporate viewpoint.  One study of ABCs "Nightline" found that over a forty-month period covering 865 programs, guests were overwhelmingly conservative, white, male, government officials, or corporate executives.  "Only 5 percent represented public interest groups.  Less than 2 percent were labor leaders or representatives of ethnic minorities. "[8] The news blackout on Seattle was just more of the same from corporate McNews media.

Benjamin Barber says that the old masters were visible tyrants. Today's masters are invisible and "sing a siren song of markets in which the name of liberty is invoked in every chorus. "  The new masters tell us that oppression is liberty, and war is peace, and tyranny is stability.  The "liberty" of McWorld may be good for consumption, says Barber, but it may not be of much use to civic liberty.

Robber baron Jay Gould once said in reference to a Knights of Labor Strike, "I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half. " Gould meant that he was willing to stir up conflict among workers and encourage violence in order to oppress average Americans who dared to stand up for their rights. [9] Gould's mentality might seem outdated, but the *fruits* of his thinking are not substantially different from what occurred in Seattle.

Day after day we see cheery, breezy fluff on the McNews channels.  We are fed shimmering portraits of smiling corporate leaders who assure us globalization is good for the country. Just beneath the glowing skin, gleaming teeth and glib snake oil spin of your friendly McWorld salesman lurks the soul of Jay Gould. Let us watch and see where trading tyranny for "stability" will take us over the next few years.  Let us not be McMesmerized into forgetfulness.


[1]  Bertram Gross, FRIENDLY FASCISM, 1980.
[4]  Cathy Perkus, ed. , COINTELPRO, The FBI's Secret War on Political Freedom, 1975.
[5]  Kathryn S.  Olmstead, CHALLENGING THE SECRET GOVERNMENT, 1996. ;
[Olmstead's source is: U. S. Senate Select Committee, Intelligence
Activities, vol. 6, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 18 November 1975, 26. )
[6]  U.  S.  Senate Select Committee Report. , vol.  6, 31.
[7]  U.  S.  Senate Select Committee Report, vol 6, 33  
[8]  Study by William Hoynes and David Croteau, prepared for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), February 1989.
[9]  Gross, FRIENDLY FASCISM, 1980.

Online Journal Home Bush Special Reports Media Church & State Racism CNP Kangas

Copyright © 1998-2001 Online Journal. All rights reserved.