I could swear this happened last night (I am writing on the morning of Thursday, January 31st), but it may be my addled, anxious, and overworked mind playing tricks on me.
I was watching "American Idol" and trying to balance my checkbook.
I was thinking I should try out for "Idol." I was also thinking about the gap between my income and my irreducible life expenditures.
A commercial for a drug that promised to make me happy and relaxed flashed across the television. I reached for the clicker to hit "mute."
But before I could turn off the sound, the ad was interrupted by the image of a sixty-something businessmen sitting behind a giant desk in a plush corporate office.
A message ran across the bottom of the screen. It said: "A Message from the American Corporate Plutocracy."
The businessman was wearing a pinstripe suit. Behind him hung pictures of J.P. Morgan, Ronald Reagan, Bill Gates, and Bill Clinton.
He looked very serious. He read the following speech:
"American subjects, we are interrupting this important pharmaceutical advertisement to tell you of the special satisfaction we feel at learning that John Edwards has dropped out of the Democratic presidential campaign."
"Edwards was on the cover of Newsweek a little more than a month ago. He was charismatic, handsome, and very effective on the campaign trail and in debates. He had star quality and many millions of dollars."
"In the last big match-up survey taken before the Iowa Caucus, he polled as the most electable candidate in the presidential race. He was the only Democratic contender who defeated all of the likely Republican presidential candidates – even John McCain, who defeated Hillary Clinton and tied Barack Obama."
"Democratic Party primaries have been held in just four small states and he’s already done."
"We are very pleased to hear of his early surrender, in which we played our usual quiet but powerful role. It is we who made sure that Edwards’ more explicitly corporate and centrist opponents could outspend him by a wide margin."
"It is we who pushed him to the margins of the all-powerful media system we own and manage in your interest – and ours."
"We’ve already voted John Edwards off the presidential version of ‘American Idol’" – so you don’t have to.
"We’ve winnowed the presidential field to four (4) officially elect-able and corporate-friendly candidates and the election is more than ten months away!"
"It’s all about he hidden primary of the rich and powerful operating behind the scenes, in the hidden corridors of power under the benevolent reign of Empire and Inequality, Inc. We are the Simon Cowells of American presidential politics. We love it and you should too."
"We do it for you, to save you the effort and heartbreak of ‘democracy,’ for which you lack the time, skill, energy, and resources."
"Take note, would-be critics of our caring rule! The spectrum of permissible debate grows narrower with each quadrennial election extravaganza we stage."
"Do not misunderstand us, American subjects. John Edwards was no radical threat to the corporate system we have crafted in response to our need for spectacular wealth and your inability to construct a better social order. Edwards said repeatedly that be believed in what he called ‘a market economy’ – what we and you should understand as a heavily state-managed system of private profit and class rule."
"He followed our counsel when he wrapped his call for universal health insurance in a plan that continued – beneath all his anti-corporate bluster – to protect the very insurance and pharmaceutical companies that have done so much to create your health care crisis."
"He made it clear again and again that he supported the broader global framework of the splendid imperial order and the related military-industrial complex we have built for the good of the world – and our own profit".
"He agreed to never to mention the overseas victims of our clumsy oaf George W. Bush’s foreign policies, including the 1 million Iraqis killed by ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’ – an action that continues to generate considerable profits for us."
"He remains ridiculously wealthy (like us) and never really challenged the core inequalities inherent in the workings of the ‘market economy.’ "
"He stood to the right of those malevolent radical mischief-makers Ralph Nader and – to mention another presidential candidate we recently liquidated – Dennis Kucinich."
"But that’s all part of what makes Edwards’ early defeat all the more delightful and rewarding for us. The magnificent march of our munificent reign has progressed so far that even John Edwards is defined as too radical to make a serious run at the White House."
"He may not have fundamentally questioned the corporate-imperial system that all of us enjoy, but he did develop some very nasty habits that displeased us. He spoke insistently about and against endemic U.S. poverty and related it to oppressive economic inequality and the supposedly ‘exorbitant’ wealth of the ‘privileged few.’ He won Nader’s approval by speaking against our ‘plutocratic’ control of government and politics as if that rule isn’t a good and necessary thing!"
"He insisted on praising the labor movement, which he repeatedly referred to as ‘the single greatest anti-poverty program in American history.’"
"He also connected his obnoxious and inherently dysfunctional and dangerous ‘populist’ appeal to very specific and detailed policy issues and agendas."
"American subjects, we are certain you found this foolish issues and policy obsession as irritating as we did! As we hope you appreciate, we kindly cater to your limited capacities and sensibilities by framing elections around trivial and childish matters of candidate image, identity, and personality."
"We don’t want you to tax your limited and overwrought minds with difficult matters of policy and governance. We want to help you vote for the right kind of politicians you find most likeable, pleasant and fun – kind of like the ‘American Idol’ show to which you shall momentarily be returned."
"As part of this mission, we employ an army of marketers, researchers, data-miners, publicists, and image consultants to help you understand which one of the presidential ‘Idols’ makes you feel best about yourselves and your glorious, business-run Nation State."
"We, the surviving four ‘Idols’ – Mitt, John (McCain that is), Hillary, and Barack – and the people around them (most of which we provide) will handle all the issues and the policies. We and they will give you all the ‘hope’ and ‘change’ and ‘unity’ you need."
"Get ready for a long and tedious exercise in delusion and identity politics that may well guarantee the White House to our favorite party – the arch-plutocratic, messianic-militarist GOP."
"We do it all for you, America. We are here to take and keep the last risks out of your ‘democracy.’ The nation is in good hands."
"Thank you for your attention. We return you now to your previously scheduled anti-depressant commercial and to the rest of the countless advertisements and programs on this and any of the other 154 stations we have generously created for your endless diversion, brainwashing, marketing, and indoctrination."
"Yours in Eternal Thought Control,"
"The American Corporate Plutocracy"
Paul Street ([email protected]) is a writer and activist in Iowa City, IA. His latest book is Racial Oppression in the Global Metropolis (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007). His latest print magazine article is "Largely About Oil: Reflections on Empire, Petroleum, Democracy Failure, and the Occupation of Iraq," Z Magazine (January 2008), read at http://www.zcomm.org/zmag/viewArticle/16105