A Very Partial Social and Political History of the last 40 Years, As Told By Sorta-Leftist Sock Puppets


(You will need to imagine the sock puppets yourself, since this textophile is too lazy to do any video work, and has no socks that can be displayed publicly. Also be aware that the level of snark herein understates the actual level of agency of working class and assorted "subalterns". And the timeline here is a little sketchy as well.)

1970s

U.S. ruling class sock puppet: We’ve spent too much money on the Vietnam war, our rate of corporate profits is falling, and our industries are losing ground to Japan and to Europe. Let’s squeeze the workers! Workers and minorities are getting too militant anyways; this will shut them up.

Top union bureaucrat sock puppet: I don’t really feel like fighting for anything, or mobilizing anyone else to fight for anything, and I’ve got a pretty sweet deal near to the ruling class here; you ruling class guys do what you want.

Christian fundamentalist right-wing movement sock puppet: Wah! Communism! Fluoridation! High taxes! {QUIETLY BUT SURELY BUILDING MOVEMENT}

Soviet sock puppets: Let’s invade Afghanistan! {SMASH! BANG!} Um, oops, maybe that wasn’t such a great idea.

1980s

Reaganite conservative sock puppet: The Communists are on the march! Let’s help our buddies in Central America kill thousands of Guatemalan Indians and thousands of people in El Salvador, and make life impossible for everyone in Nicaragua, so that they can’t stand the slightly leftist regime there and vote them out of power. Oh, while we’re at it, let’s slash social programs and break unions in the U.S, and convince people that any collective movement is their enemy.

Democratic Party sock puppets: Sounds like a sweet deal to us. Go for it! But could you guys maybe be a little less obvious in violating human rights? And save a few social programs here and there; our voting base kinda depends on those.

Postmodern academic sock puppet: I’m tired of supporting social movements. Workers don’t really like us anyways because we’re too elitist. Let’s watch TV and make up jargon for the next 2 decades!

Marketing/advertising sock puppet: We are the Borg. You will be assimilated. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service ours.

Silicon Valley sock puppet: Let’s convince corporations and public organizations to re-do all their business processes in terms of IT. When you add up all the maintenance costs of programmers and hardware, it won’t actually save them any money, but soon they’ll be dependent on our overpriced, proprietary tools in perpetuity! Sweet!

U.S. ruling class sock puppets: This IT stuff looks pretty nice. It will help us squeeze workers even more: blue-collar workers will be so scared of being made redundant by machines that they will not be able to strike. Even better, it will help us to destroy the autonomy of blue-collar workers and pink-collar workers, by routinizing and rationalizing tasks that they once did at their own pace. Now, we have direct control over those tasks, and can remake business processes with little or no negotiation!

Marketing/advertising/media conglomerate sock puppet: Hey, we like that whole destroying-collective-social-movements idea. All the better if the population sits in stupefied isolation in front of their TVs, and is told what to consume and what to believe.

Israeli government sock puppets, American Jewish establishment sock puppets: The Palestinians are throwing stones! They want to kill all Jews! It’s like Kristallnacht all over again! It’s the end of the world!

Postmodern academic sock puppets: Society can sometimes use science for bad things, and some scientists are racist. Let’s overthrow the hegemony of rational thought!

Quack doctor sock puppets, New Age cultist sock puppets, Christian fundamentalist sock puppets, Jewish fundamentalist sock puppets, Islamic fundamentalist sock puppets, Hindu fundamentalist sock puppets: Sounds great to us!

Soviet and Eastern European ruling class sock puppets: Now seems like it would be a good time to collapse. We can probably bilk more money out of our populations under capitalism than we ever could under "communism" anyways.

1990s:

Liberal internationalists/cautious conservatives sock puppets: Saddam Hussein just did something really stupid, even for him. (Though it’s not nearly as evil as what he has been doing to the Kurds.) Let’s get him out of Kuwait in order to achieve a quick and easy victory and thus end the Vietnam syndrome, show off our new military toys, and impose a Pax Americana on the Middle East. But let’s leave him in power, because a strong man in Iraq is better than the chaos that might ensue without one.

Silicon Valley sock puppet: Computers! Digital culture! The world wide web! It’s going to change the world!

Postmodern academic sock puppet: Quick, the Left is not quite completely irrelevant yet! More jargon! More jargon!

Israeli government sock puppets: Let’s make a deal with the PLO, and give them tiny isolated statelets, in areas criss-crossed by our highways and illegal settlements. They’ll have authoritarian control over life within those statelets, but we’ll continue to control the borders, and the economy. We’ll also continue to make life hell on Earth for Palestinians in Jerusalem, Hebron, etc. Hopefully they’ll just decide to leave some day.

PLO top leadership sock puppets: Did you say we get authoritarian control over our own little fiefdoms? Good deal! Sign us up!

Israeli government sock puppets: Let’s destroy the remaining vestiges of socialism in Israeli society, and drastically increase inequality between Israeli Jews, not to mention between Israeli Arabs and Israeli Jews! Oh, while we’re at it, since this society is a little too stable, let’s import a metric ton of Russians, some of whome will create huge criminal syndicates, and let’s get some more of those crazy machine-gun-toting Orthodox Jewish fundamentalists from New York to settle in the West Bank.

Liberal internationalist/cautious conservative sock puppets: Arab and Persian nationalism is sort of getting in our way, in terms of controlling access to oil in the Middle East. Since the Shah was overthrown, Iran isn’t our lackey anymore. Our main remaining lackey in the region, the Israeli government, has been doing its best to keep the Middle East under the thumb of the U.S., but things are sort of spiraling out of control.

Islamic fundamentalist sock puppets: Well, since you guys armed us in Afghanistan, and destroyed secular socialist and secular nationalist movements throughout the world for the past 50 years, it’s pretty clear that you want religious fundamentalists in power. That fits with our own cracked view of society anyways.

Balkan nationalist sock puppets: Since that whole socialist togetherness thing didn’t work out so well, let’s kill all Muslims! Kill all Croats! Kill all Serbs! Let’s party like it was 1912-1913!

Liberal internationalists/cautious conservatives sock puppets: Let’s rebrand American imperialism as the defense of human rights. That will win us over more former lefties.

Clintonite sock puppets, Silicon valley sock puppets, liberal internationalists/cautious conservative sock puppets: Since "communism" fell, obviously deregulated free markets are the only game in town. Let’s privatize everything, deregulate banks (repealing Glass-Steagall), force all third world countries to open their markets to ours (even though we would have never opened up to Great Britain at a similar stage of our own economic development). Oh, and let’s not forget to destroy the meager social safety net that’s left after 10 years of Republican depredations.

Indian ruling class sock puppets: We’re tired of pretending to care for the poor, and we hear this free market stuff is the way to go. Let’s liberalize everything! So what if thousands of poor peasants commit suicide! However, because we’re not quite as stupid as the American ruling class, let’s not forget that the free market doesn’t really work without the state. So let’s continue to direct investments to strategic growth industries.

Chinese Communist sock puppets, Vietnamese Communist sock puppets: What those Indian guys said. Except with more political repression.

Hindu Nationalist sock puppets: Liberalization is causing us to lose our identity, both here in Bharat, or in the Diaspora. Let’s beat up on local Muslims, that will make us feel better!

Marketing/advertising/media conglomerate sock puppet: Worship the brand! You are what you consume!

Silicon Valley sock puppets: The rise of the internet is the rise of a new class! All the rules are off! We can create value of thin air! We do not need any actual workers, nor their pesky 20th century ideas of solidarity!

U.S. ruling class sock puppets: {OUTSOURCES ALMOST EVERY INDUSTRY IN THE U.S., PRETTY MUCH DESTROYING THE REMNANTS OF THE WORKING CLASS}

Postmodern academic sock puppet: Sounds good to us!

U.S. ruling class sock puppets: Hey workers, now that your wages have been stagnant for 20 years, why not ride on the stock bubble by investing in mutual funds? Or why not use credit cards as a safety net, since we destroyed the real safety net? Or, why not let us invest social security in the stock market? {STOCK MARKET CRASHES} Hm, maybe we should think of something else…

Christian fundie sock puppets: {MOVEMENT QUIETLY METASTATIZING, CREATING MEGACHURCHES, DAVE RAMSEY, GEORGE W BUSH, AND CHRISTIAN ROCK.}

2000s:

2000-2001:

Democratic Party sock puppets: Let’s run a really lame campaign with the most boring candidate possible! Hey, if it doesn’t work out, we can always blame Nader.

Israeli right wing sock puppets: You know, it would be a great idea for us to visit the holiest site within Judaism, which also happens to be the third holiest site in Islam, with a huge armed escort, and declare it will remain under Israeli control forever. {SECOND INTIFADA STARTS}

American Jewish establishment sock puppets: Wah! The Palestinians are shooting and bombing more regularly now! They’re evil and irrational! We can’t think of any possible reason why they would do these things! It’s definitely not the fact that our favorite little regime has kept them stateless and repressed for 30 years, with our ideological support!

Islamic fundamentalist sock puppets: Let’s kill hundreds, maybe thousands of Americans! That will galvanize our supporters in the Middle East against autocratic regimes like Egypt and Saudi Arabia. And, maybe if we’re lucky enough, it will draw the U.S. directly into an immoral and strategically idiotic war in the Middle East, which drain the morale and treasury of the U.S. And, since Americans are infidels anyways, it doesn’t matter how many we kill, even if most of them have little or nothing to do with their government’s policies. Maybe if we’re really lucky, the remnants of the U.S. Left will chase their own tails for the next 10 years in pursuit of idiotic 9-11 conspiracy theories! {SMASH, BOOM, CRASH} Wow, that worked out even better than we thought!

Neocon/Christian fundie sock puppets: Wow, thanks guys! Let’s make plans to invade Iraq, Syria, and Iran, and destroy the U.S. Constitution! Also, we can freeze all criticism of U.S. foreign policy for at least 2 years.

U.S. Left sock puppets: Uh, we don’t know how to deal with the fact that Islamic terrorism is a real problem, so we’ll just pretend that nothing interesting really happened. This is sure to endear us to the American people. {CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS SOCK PUPPET ROCKETS RIGHT-WARD.}

2002-2006:

Neocon/Christian fundie sock puppets, liberal internationalists/cautious conservatives sock puppets, Silicon valley sock puppets, Earnest cultural hipster sock puppets {e.g. Dan Savage, NPR listeners, etc}, Apostate leftist sock puppets {Christopher Hitchens}, Hard-right Zionist sock puppets: Islamofascism is on the march! Let’s invade Iraq! {SMASH, BANG, BOOM!}

Liberal internationalists/cautious conservatives sock puppets, Silicon valley sock puppets, Earnest cultural hipster sock puppets: Hm, maybe this whole making over the Middle East in our image isn’t working out so well.

Neocon/Christian fundie sock puppets, Apostate leftist sock puppets, Hard-right Zionist sock puppets: Islamofascism! Victory is in sight! If you’re not with us, you’re with the terrorists!

Liberal internationalists/cautious conservatives sock puppets, Silicon valley sock puppets, Earnest cultural hipster sock puppets: Those Christian fundamentalist supporters of Bush kind of embarrass us– they are too lower class and unintellectual. Also, Bush is not really running the Empire in a rational way. Maybe we should claim we were against the war from the beginning.

Ruling class sock puppets: Hey workers, now that your wages have been stagnant for 40 years, how bout riding on the mortgage bubble by using your home as a piggy bank? Or using credit cards as a safety net, since we destroyed the real safety net?

U.S. working class sock puppets: Well, since we have no other options…

Self-help sock puppets, Christian fundie sock puppets, Objectivists sock puppets: Workers, you are utterly and completely to blame for everything bad that happens to you. Don’t even try to think of changing your circumstances through participation in social movements or through pressuring government. Just do whatever your boss says, work your ass off without complaining. Oh, and don’t forget to buy my book/seminar/CV/DVD!

New Orleans: {IS FLOODED. POOR BLACK PEOPLE PUT IN A BIG CAGE, SHOT FOR ATTEMPTING TO GET FOOD AND SUPPLIES.}

Liberal intellegentsia sock puppets, Silicon valley sock puppets, Earnest cultural hipster sock puppets: Even though we happily went along with the looting of the public sector for the past 20 years, let’s claim this is all George W Bush’s fault!

2007-2009

Liberal internationalists/cautious conservatives sock puppets, Silicon valley sock puppets, Earnest cultural hipster sock puppets: Hey, let’s create a candidate that will run the Empire in a kinder, gentler manner! Extra points if it can bring over the black population of the U.S. and most of the remainder of the left! The messianic fervor we create around him will further convince Americans that they can do nothing but depend on charismatic leaders to fix things for them– they shouldn’t try to create their own movements. Oh, and we might have to throw a few social democratic bones to the population to undo 10 years of Republican idiocy.

Democratic party sock puppets: Obama is the Messiah! Hope! Change! No real programs or debate of substance!

Republican party sock puppets: Terrorists! Terrorists! Obama is a terrorist!

U.S.  Left sock puppets: We got nothin’.

World economy: {COLLAPSES, SO MUCH SO THAT IT STARTS AFFECTING THE RICH}

U.S. ruling class sock puppets: Um, hey, you guys, we might want to think of something else…

Democratic party sock puppets: We’ll fix the economy!

Republican party sock puppets: Uh…..

Obama sock puppet: {WINS}

Liberal internationalists/cautious conservatives sock puppets, Silicon valley sock puppets, Earnest cultural hipster sock puppets: {REJOICE}

Christian fundie sock puppets: {STOCKPILE WEAPONS}

Israeli Defense Forces sock puppets: {PUMMELS GAZA AFTER MONTHS OF A DEBILITATING SIEGE}

Hamas sock puppets: Let’s fire more rockets into working-class Israeli suburbs, since that has worked so well in getting the rest of the world on our side in the past.

Democratic party sock puppets: Ignore what’s going on in Gaza! It will be all be better when Obama is here, even though he kissed the ass of the Israeli right wing and its right-wing American Jewish backers during and after the campaign. Hopey change, changey hope!

Advertising/Marketing industry/media conglomerate sock puppets, earnest cultural hipster sock puppets, Silicon valley sock puppets: Yay! Obama is elected! Let’s throw a massive party with personality worship reminiscent of Maoism!

Liberal internationalists/cautious conservatives sock puppets: Let’s get back to maintaining the Empire in a more sustainable way. More troops to Afghanistan! Let’s pretend to get out of Iraq, but leave a huge population of mercenary troops in there, as well as "bases" that are more like cities. Oh, and let’s close our most egregious torture chambers, and go back to training brown people into performing our torture for us, so that we can claim that the U.S. is a light among the nations.

Obama sock puppet: Hey, maybe destroying the U.S. Constitution wasn’t such a bad idea after all…

U.S.  Left sock puppets: We still got nothin’.

Partial Bibliography

Chomsky, Noam. 1993. Year 501: The Conquest Continues. Boston: South End Press.

Chomsky, Noam. 1996. Powers and Prospects: Reflections on Human Nature and the Social Order. Boston: South End Press.

Dollars and Sense Magazine. 1996-2009. http://www.dollarsandsense.org/ Accessed May 31, 2009.

Ehrenreich, Barbara. 1990. Fear of Falling: The Inner Life of the Middle Class. Perennial Press.

Glenny, Mischa. 2009. McMafia: A Journey Through the Global Criminal Underworld. Vintage.

Gordon, David. 1996. Fat and Mean: The Corporate Squeezing of Working America and the Myth of Managerial "Downsizing". The Free Press.

Frank, Thomas. 2001. One Market Under God: Extreme Capitalism, Market Populism, and the End of Economic Democracy. Anchor Press.

Henwood, Doug. 1992-2009. Left Business Observer Magazine. http://www.leftbusinessobserver.com/ . Accessed May 31, 2009.

Prashad, Vijay. 2008. The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World. New Press.

Street, Paul. 2004-2009. Essays on ZNet: http://www.zcomm.org/blog/paulstreet. Accessed May 31, 2009.

Yates, Michael. 2009. Why Unions Matter. 10th Anniversary edition. Monthly Review Press.

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