Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Layer 188 The Shock Doctrine, Michael Moore, Friedman, Capitalism, Enron, and the Smartest Guys in the Room

The Shock Doctrine 
The Guardian's teenage previewer of last night's The Shock Doctrine (on More Four), which was every bit as good as anticipated, also wrote some gratuitous, supercilious and snide comments about Michael Moore, a man who's been incredibly original, funny and brave as a film maker in his attempts to expose the shit that happens in America thanks to corporate and individual irresponsibility, greed and stupidity, guns, drugs, politicians, the power of money, etc. 
Moore has a new film that's soon to be released – check it on 
That's right folks – Capitalism. A Love Story. Michael's angry about ordinary people being forced to hand over billions of dollars to the fat cats and the minions that caused the world financial crash of 2008 - and he wants the money back!
For the first time in living memory capitalism is under serious scrutiny in the USA, and possibly in the UK as well. Back in the 90's there was a common assumption that the fall of communism had ushered in “the end of history”, as some bozo called it. It was meant to be the final and irrevocable triumph of the unfettered free market, 'small government', globalisation, etc. Well it looks like history might just be back. 
The genius of Naomi Klein has been to piece together a grand narrative that shows with enormous clarity and great insight the political and economic history of the world in the latter part of the 20th Century and the beginning of the 21st. Beginning with the secret American experiments with 'brainwashing' and torture techniques in the 1950s, and ending with Iraq, and the great financial implosion of 2008. 
The story takes in Milton Friedman's insidious and highly successful efforts to make war on Keynesian economics and social democratic government with his development of 'monetarism' at the University of Chicago, and the way in which he aided and abetted the CIA and Nixon in the plot to overthrow Allende's socialist government in Chile. 
Klein's narrative moves on to show how Friedman then set out to promote his Disaster Capitalism in other countries in South America, often by 'training' their young economists in Chicago – countries where fascist military dictatorships overthrew left-leaning democratic governments. For all of that, and for his 'advice' and support for undemocratic 'shock doctrine' political upheavals in Russia, South Africa, and yes – the UK - the man eventually received a Nobel Prize for economics. Fucking amazing.
Most staggering of all Klein exposes the way in which Bush and Rumsfeld used the 'shock' of the Twin Towers to inflict military conquest on Iraq, in spite of there being no demonstrable links with the perpetrators of 9/11. The scale of the 'outsourcing' of the combat and the so-called reconstruction has been truly unbelievable, with untold and unaccounted for billions of dollars handed over to American corporations with virtually no oversight and definitely no tendering process. 
The film shows Klein speaking to a variety of audiences, and hits home her main point which is the need to expose the myth that capitalism and globalisation is a benign doctrine that conquered the entire planet because of its beauty, truth, logic and inherent justice. The truth is that the entire planet has been ravaged and raped by over-mighty corporations driven by crazed megalomaniacs and oligarchs that busted into countries around the world after the doors had been beaten down by armies that battered, tortured and killed on the direct orders of mad politicians and supine parliaments. 
In some countries, of course, like the UK, there was no need to do any battering – Thatch willingly embraced these ideas – directly from Hayek (Friedman's guru), as it happens – and set about dismantling social democracy: selling off state assets for peanuts, cutting social spending and public services, passing anti-union legislation, deregulating capitalism and the banks, etc, etc. If anyone tried to get in their way – well Mags had no hesitation in sending in the cops to batter the miners into submission and bust their strikes. A lady with a mandate, you see.
The Smartest Guys In The Room

Immediately after The Shock Doctrine last night More Four screened a documentary called The Smartest Guys In The Room, which is a brilliant expose of the Enron Corporation and the scandal of its methods, its phenomenal growth, and ultimately its spectacular bust. Quite possibly the greatest capitalist disaster of all time – millions of investors were scammed out of their life savings and financial wellbeing by a bunch of lying, greedy bastards that were the biggest contributors to the Bush election campaign. But then came 2008, and the collapse of the entire bubble created by Wall Street and the City of London through the use of massive amounts of unsecured credit, over-priced property, Ponzi schemes, etc. 
The insane thing is that most people are still unaware of what went on, who was responsible and how they're still getting away with it. In fact it's just about business as usual in the latter half of 2009, except for the fact that very few poor people can now get any credit, and hundreds of small businesses have already gone bust as a result of credit facilities being withdrawn. Hence the massive rise in unemployment. The City Boys are even back on their fat bonuses and huge salaries.
Hopefully Moore's film deals with many of these issues. The film about the Shock Doctrine ended with Klein pointing out that in spite of all they'd done to the world's financial system the City Boys paid themselves 18.4 billions dollars in bonuses in 2008. She also mentioned that September 15th is the first anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, which arguably triggered the near-collapse of the entire system. This was a worldwide crisis directly attributable to the ideology of deregulation and privatisation. This ideology has caused a massive transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich. And yet they carry on getting richer and richer, whilst the jobless become more and more destitute, in every country on earth. 
Naomi Klein's final message is that the only way in which things will change is if we, the people, go out there and make them do it. 


Murdoch and the BBC

Jonathan Friedland wrote an excellent piece in the Guardian this week about James Murdoch's recent speech:

Don't let Murdoch smash this jewel. The BBC must act to save itself

Rupert's son is bent on continuing the war his father started. But he'll find Auntie matches the NHS in public affections

"Credit where it's due: the free-market right is nothing if not brave. Fainter-hearted souls would have spotted the imminent first anniversary of the collapse of Lehman brothers that started the global financial crisis and decided that now was not the moment to trumpet the case for unfettered private enterprise, free of meddling regulation. But the evangelists for turbo-charged capitalism are made of sterner stuff. With the American conservative assault on Britain's "Nazi" and "Orwellian" National Health Service still fresh in the memory, a leading US free marketeer has trained his sights on another British institution: the BBC.

He is James Murdoch whose weekend MacTaggart lecture was a 39-minute plea for comprehensive deregulation, warning of the dangers of state interference in the "natural diversity" of the media industry. Of the recent history of deregulation, with its catastrophic consequences for the world's economy, there was not a mention.

Nor did he detain his audience at the Edinburgh television festival, sponsored by the Guardian, with a declaration of his own interest in the subject. He spoke as if he were a mere policy wonk, rather than the heir to a broadcasting empire that would make billions if he had his way and the BBC were cut down to size. This was like a fox arguing that the henhouse doors be thrown wide open – not for his own sake, you understand, but for the good of society."

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