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The Shock Doctrine and Cindy Sheehan on the Cat Food Commission

Posted by libhom Monday, November 22, 2010

Most of the political commentary in the corporate media on the Cat Food Commision has come from men, which is typically sexist but extra bizarre because the CFC's assault on Social Security would disproportionately affect women.

photo of The Shock Doctrine in a stack of three booksTo understand what the Cat Food Commission is about, it is first instructive to understand The Shock Doctrine, a concept developed by Naomi Klein, one of the most important thinkers of our time. Excepts from the documentary film, "The Shock Doctrine" broadcasted on Democracy Now in 2007, provide a good summary of what this is all about.

NAOMI KLEIN: Remaking people, shocking them into obedience. This is a story about that powerful idea. In the 1950s, it caught the attention of the CIA. The agency funded a series of experiments. Out of them was produced a secret handbook on how to break down prisoners. The key was using shock to reduce adults to a childlike state.

TEXT: The following narration is excerpted from the CIA’s 1963 and 1983 interrogation manuals.

NARRATION: It’s a fundamental hypothesis of this handbook that these are techniques are, in essence, methods of inducing regression of the personality. There is an interval, which may be extremely brief, of suspended animation, a kind of psychological shock or paralysis. Experienced interrogators recognize this effect when it appears and know that at this moment the source is far more open to suggestion, far likelier to comply, than he was just before he experienced the shock.

NAOMI KLEIN: But these techniques don’t only work on individuals; they can work on whole societies: a collective trauma, a war, a coup, a natural disaster, a terrorist attack puts us all into a state of shock. And in the aftermath, like the prisoner in the interrogation chamber, we, too, become childlike, more inclined to follow leaders who claim to protect us.

One person who understood this phenomenon early on was the famous economist of our era, Milton Friedman. Friedman believed in a radical vision of society in which profit and the market drive every aspect of life, from schools to healthcare, even the army. He called for abolishing all trade protections, deregulating all prices and eviscerating government services.

These ideas have always been tremendously unpopular, and understandably so. They cause waves of unemployment, send prices soaring, and make life more precarious for millions. Unable to advance their agenda democratically, Friedman and his disciples were drawn to the power of shock.

NARRATION: The subject should be rudely awakened and immediately blindfolded and handcuffed. When arrested at this time, most subjects experience intense feelings of shock, insecurity and psychological stress. The idea is to prevent the subject from relaxing and recovering from shock.

NAOMI KLEIN: Friedman understood that just as prisoners are softened up for interrogation by the shock of their capture, massive disasters could serve to soften us up for his radical free-market crusade. He advised politicians that immediately after a crisis, they should push through all the painful policies at once, before people could regain their footing. He called this method "economic shock treatment." I call it "the shock doctrine."

Take a second look at the iconic events of our era, and behind many you will find its logic at work. This is the secret history of the free market. It wasn’t born in freedom and democracy; it was born in shock.

An obvious example of this being applied to the US was what has been done to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In a city with increased homelessness and displaced people, perfectly livable public housing was torn down a couple of years after the hurricane as the coup de grace of exploitation of tragedy to turn the city over to wealthy and corporate interests.

Another example of the Shock Doctrine political economy is the Cat Food Commission in the US. In this case, a real Great Recession is being used in concert with phony hysteria about Social Security to try to push for a massive redistribution of income and wealth to the rich from everyone else.

Cindy Sheehan sitting in front of museumCindy Sheehan's recent blog posting, Savage Austerity, puts the issue in concrete, human terms. The entire posting is well worth reading, but I'll excerpt the part most directly related to the Cat Food Commission here.
I have been worried about Obama’s Bowles-Simpson “Cat Food Commission” (CFC) on reducing the deficit since it was announced, and it turns out my worries were well founded.

Besides suggesting raising the retirement age to an ungodly 69, savage cuts to Social Security and Medicare are proposed. Who needs Social Security and Medicare? Not the elite, but they are not forgotten in the CFC plan, the CFC also proposes to REDUCE taxes on the top earners from an already too low 35%, to an absolutely obscene 23%! Obama is following the international sport of the ruling class of forcing the least advantaged in society to pay for the crimes and excess of the One-Percent Club—those who sit at the top of the economic food chain controlling at least 50 percent of the nation’s wealth.

One thing we must understand, especially in the U.S, is that Capitalism creates these crises to be able to “capitalize” on them. The bubbles of the past were generated for gross profit on the expansion, and economic vampirism on the contraction. We who are not in the One-Percent Club may feel some temporary prosperity on the expansion, but each contraction squeezes us tighter and tighter.

In the CFC, there are also modest cuts proposed to defense, but, if any do go through, (very doubtful) it will just be a symbolic gesture meant to prove to us that the parasites really are “in it” with us.

In the commentary, Ms. Sheehan also shows that she gets it in terms of something that is taboo to discuss in corporate media: the parasitism of the rich.
Parasitism is a type of symbiotic relationship between organisms of different species where one organism, the parasite, benefits at the expense of the host. Well, the Capitalists are definitely a species of creature that benefits at the expense of its host—the workers and our prosperity. The intriguing thing about the parasitic behavior of the One Percent Club, though, is in its very name: One Percent. One percent of the economic parasites in the U.S. are benefiting off of the rest of us.

Here though, it’s almost as if we have invited our parasites to suck the life out of us, and we not only give them our comfy beds, we cook them a delicious breakfast, too, and compose a lovely Thank You note to them to add insult to injury.

Corporate propagandists act like we actually owe the rich for everything, not vice versa. In the upside down world of this propagandistic blather, rich people create jobs rather than the rest of us creating the wealth that the rich exploit. Never mind the fact that the rich in the US are shipping jobs out of the country with ruthless glee.

Why are most male commentators, even outside of the corporate media, afraid to acknowledge this parasitism?

Photos: miketually





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