Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Manufacturing dissent

At some level of my being I've always understood that American dissent, protest, "progressivism," and activism are a load of steaming horse manure. But I've never quite been able to articulate the inchoate feeling about why it has always struck such a false note with me. Partly, perhaps, it has had to do with the nature of the people to be found in these "movements" (I use the term rashly): ill-educated, ill-dressed, ill-spoken, and generally uncouth. I wouldn't trust them to change a light bulb, let alone successfully orchestrate meaningful change. In part, perhaps, because there has never been a program for change -- it's mostly been ill-articulated rhetoric with no grounding in action, with no basis in active confrontation with the powers-that-be. Michel Chossudovsky takes this attitude of mine a bit further and argues in this essay that the reason there's been no plausible program for change is that they've been orchestrated from on high by the very powers they're supposed to have been opposed to:

Under contemporary capitalism, the illusion of democracy must prevail. It is in the interest of the corporate elites to accept dissent and protest as a feature of the system inasmuch as they do not constitute a threat to the established social order. The purpose is not to repress dissent, but, on the contrary, to shape and mould the protest movement, to set the outer limits of dissent.

To maintain their legitimacy, the economic elites favor limited and controlled forms of opposition, with a view to preventing the development of radical forms of protest, which might shake the very foundations and institutions of global capitalism. In other words, "manufacturing dissent" acts as a "safety valve", which protects and sustains the New World Order.

To be effective, however, the process of "manufacturing dissent" must be carefully regulated and monitored by those who are the object of the protest movement.

The mechanisms of "manufacturing dissent" require a manipulative environment, a process of arm-twisting and subtle cooptation of individuals within progressive organizations, including anti-war coalitions, environmentalists and the anti-globalization movement.

Whereas the mainstream media "manufactures consent", the complex network of NGOs (including segments of the alternative media) are used by the corporate elites to mould and manipulate the protest movement.

The objective of the corporate elites has been to fragment the people's movement into a vast "do it yourself" mosaic. War and globalization are no longer in the forefront of civil society activism. Activism tends to be piecemeal. There is no integrated anti-globalization anti-war movement. The economic crisis is not seen as having a relationship to the US led war.

Dissent has been compartmentalized. Separate "issue oriented" protest movements (e.g. environment, anti-globalization, peace, women's rights, climate change) are encouraged and generously funded as opposed to a cohesive mass movement. This mosaic was already prevalent in the counter G7 summits and People's Summits of the 1990s.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Check out "Foundations and Public Policy" by Joan Roelofs for more on Liberal foundations co-opting of dissent. Also Michael James Barker,