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AMERICAN BUDDHA ONLINE LIBRARY

THE BODHISATTVA MARSHALL PLAN
by Charles Carreon

1.A. Eliminate Phony Democracy

There's a time-lag between when something happens, and when you acknowledge it. People become bald before they acknowledge it, for example. But people who don't like you will have no trouble waking you up to the smell of the coffee, and pointing out, with unflattering cartoons in my case, that you don't have a big, healthy mane like you once did. Which started me thinking about whether there's been an advancement in hair transplantation tech since back in the eighties, when that Eastern European paralegal sparsely reforested the area north of his forehead in an exact grid pattern like a tree-farm.

It was the sort of thing that kept me wondering. Why the heck did he bother? It was transparently ineffective. Now you can't say that for the coverup job that Congress has done since representative democracy went missing. Probably the majority of the people don't even realize it has happened. Congress may have a low approval rating, but Senators and Congressional reps aren't actually being burned in effigy, as would be the case if the truth were known -- that representative democracy is dead because the honored members of the Senate and the House represent only moneyed corporate interests and whoever else their handlers put in front of them while murmuring "big donor" in their ear.

At some point you don't have to ask if there's a waste disposal plant nearby. The stench makes the issue moot. Something has died here, and trillions upon trillions of stench-producing bacteria are hard at work, farting up a storm, and that's just gonna stink. The stench of corruption that has been emanating from Washington for all of these years since oh, Good Lord, my entire lifetime, that takes you back to Truman, should have alerted us to something. But like I say, it's been a damn good coverup!

America lost its nuclear cherry nine years before I was born, and everybody was in shock about it while I grew into long pants. That was called the fifties -- prime nostalgia belt stuff -- and if you want to know what everyone's nostalgic about, I'll tell you. It's not bobby sox and convertibles, waitresses on rollerskates, and people saying "Gee whiz!" No, it's the comforting atmosphere of sheer terror that pervaded a society where everyone knew that this day could be your last, because Kennedy and Kruschev were giving each other the hairy eyeball while fingering their nuclear triggers, and everybody knew that the red menace was serious. Serious, like the French say, as a heart attack. It was kind of the Zen of being a counterweight in the balance of terror. We were all in it together. That's one thing you can say for a nuclear holocaust. People say they want to go with their loved ones simultaneously. Nukes are like an app for that.

So I think you can make the argument that democracy was dead before I was born. It has just been a kinder, gentler form of martial law ever since. And now, as we are surrounded, conditioned, and monitored by omnipresent instruments of social control, we realize that we are the frog in the cooking pot so often spoken of.

The strange thing about stench is that your nose goes numb. There's plenty of towns that stink, inhabited by people who are the olfactory equivalent of deaf to stink. Usually the airborne agent is sulfur dioxide, the rotten-egg smell that is one of the core nasty smells around a paper mill. And people who live in paper towns are notoriously touchy about anyone saying their town stinks, because after a while you don't smell it anymore. So it goes without saying that a Congressperson or a Senator, is the last person who would have the first idea about what corruption is. Those who labor on the Congressional Hill will no doubt say that their little burg "smells like money," like the people who live in Franklin, Virginia, a paper-mill town known statewide for its cheerful, stink-deaf locals.

It's pretty simple. If you want to get rich, you have to put up with a lot of stink at first, and no one in Washington will argue with that. But pretty soon you don't notice anymore, and none of your friends notice, and anyone who brings it up, like that Medea Benjamin, will just be shown the exit by men wearing flak jackets, armed with Tasers and powerful semi-automatic handguns, in case the troublemaker is non-compliant and has to be neutralized or terminated.

Bush II took it as proof that Saddam Hussein had a totalitarian system because the people gave him 100% of their votes. Tyrant-to-tyrant, of course, he knew what he was talking about! It takes a stronger brand of tyrant to run a country with only 48% of the popular vote and nine judges on your side.

Talk about playin' poker with an ace in the hole. Dynastic succession is what we have here in the USA. With a two-party system that puts bluebloods in both corners, the power structure can hardly lose. Some Democrats still wring their hands over how the Supreme Court took Gore seriously when he conceded. Lawyers all agree the opinion that no judge would sign is nonsense, lacking any sound legal rationale. Because it was all about sportsmanship, you see? Gore conceded, and that should have been that, but then he waffled. His blue blood kind of flared up, and he forgot that he'd conceded. He reached for lawyers, and that was unsportsmanlike, so the Supreme Court had to intervene. They say English military victories were "won on the playing fields of Eton." Likewise, Bush v. Gore was won in the locker rooms of Yale and Harvard.

Political pundits of course would not know about the death of democracy, either. They haven't put two and two together to make four. Instead political pundits put out the idea that Congress is "gridlocked" because the "extremist Republicans" have "pushed the Republicans to the extreme right." They fail to note that this "gridlock" has not stopped a single armed drone from unleashing its load of death, has not gotten the U.S. military out of Afghanistan, has not stopped the banks from recouping all of their losses, or the stock market from minting money for flash traders. It has produced an inane system of mandatory medical insurance for healthy people who don't want and can't afford medical insurance, especially since they are unemployed and under-employed.

Congress, while "gridlocked on domestic policy," is full speed ahead on things like the Trans Pacific Partnership, that, if adopted, would restrict the scope of U.S. law based upon agreements negotiated in secret by corporate leaders and government apparatchiks. Congress is never "gridlocked on Israel," or "gridlocked on the Pentagon budget," or "gridlocked on investigating torture abuses." Nope, they're bipartisan on all that flag-wavey shit. Congress is only "gridlocked" on things like overhauling consumer bankruptcy law to allow people who only have one home to keep it. That's such a tough issue to get your head around, especially when you've got your head filled with images of how you're going to spend the campaign money you got from the mortgage-insurance company that is making so much money off the housing disaster. Congress is gridlocked.

The gridlock that exists in Congress is not accidental. It is as planned as everything else that Congress is doing. Collaboration "across the aisle" has been lost, we are told. What nonsense! There is sufficient collaboration to keep all of the agenda items of importance to the wealthy pushed to the fore of governmental action. The things that aren't getting done are things that the wealthy do not want done in a hurry. So you won't get peace in Israel, and you will get more New Yorkers moving there to populate the settlements. You won't get a civilian youth corps out into America, fixing the infrastructure and learning construction skills, and you will get higher student loan debt and a shrinking job market. You won't get immigration reform and respect for the human rights of people in ICE custody, and you will get more money for enforcement officers and detention centers.

What do we have if we do not have representative democracy? It's something like democracy, in one sense only. The populace appears to have given its consent to what government does. But this consent is phony. The phoniness was particularly apparent when the Nine Judges selected Bush II to rule, but it appears equally phony when the Congress orders the citizenry to buy health insurance, or the President orders drones to kill people because he thinks it will make U.S. citizens "more secure." Sometimes he has to kill American citizens with drone strikes. Of course he could not investigate torture. He wasn't powerful enough. The President, you see, does not have the power to investigate the acts of other Presidents. That's because he doesn't represent you. He represents the office of the Presidency. And he doesn't want future Presidents investigating his Presidency. You, and the people who were tortured, have no representation.

Yes, I said you have no representation. If something extremely awful were done to you by the government, who would you turn to? You know the government does awful things to people, right? Black prisons run by the CIA may seem a distant fantasy, but being sent to prison for a long time for what seems like small potatoes is a common experience for citizens of the U.S.A. It's more common for us Americans than for people in any other "first world" country. You got no one to help you if you fall into the clutches of the prosecution, except for a public defender, and while I don't speak ill of public defenders as a class, having been a damn good one myself, on your average day, if you're charged with a federal crime, lawyer or no lawyer, you can kiss your ass goodbye for a lengthy stretch. Unless of course, you're wealthy, or committed a financial crime too complicated for a jury to understand, and can afford a lawyer to defend you at trial. That seems to be working very well these days, for those few, rare, unfortunate financial executives who somehow attract the attention of a prosecutor, usually because their misdeeds can provide cover for those of much bigger criminals.

Can you survive in this phony democracy? Sure you can. You can vote. They would let a zombie vote in this system.

1.B. Eliminate Phony People

They move among us, non-humans without feelings or emotions. Huge, omnipresent entities looming over us, controlling the systems we depend on for survival and identity. Their logos are more familiar to suburban children, and as beloved, as the family pet. For children in particular, immense corporations provide the stability and meanings that support life and condition growth.

Criticism of corporations is emotional and legalistic. It takes no great wit to kindle anti-corporate ire, so flagrant, and ubiquitous are corporate crimes and misdemeanors. And we are now all comfortable with the fact that the legal doctrine of corporate personhood exploded full blown one day like a disgusting boil erupting on the forehead of the Supreme Court, a pustulent mass revealing the uncleanness within. So no need to go into that.

Neither the Court nor Congress will ever move to explode the legal fiction that companies are people, a notion that is so wrongheaded a solution to the question of how to style the status of a non-human entity in litigation that you know that's not why they did it.

They did it so rich people could clone themselves. Because rich people have so much property that they benefit by hiding their ownership.  Back in the 1900's, if all the factories, oil fields, railroad cars and company towns that old John D. Rockefeller owned had "Property of John D. Rockefeller," painted all over them, instead of "Standard Oil," human jealousy, provided with that type of fuel, would have exploded in outrage.  As it was, with his power and wealth concealed in Standard Oil and its innumerable sub-corporations, the rage could only smolder, and it took government prosecutors to reveal how one man was imposing his vision of life on America.  And in that vision, John D. Rockefeller was the smartest, best person to own everything.  He would put it all to what the economists call the "highest, best use." 

How could one man own everything in sight?  Well, when it came to extracting, refining, transporting, wholesaling and retailing petroleum products, he did.  He fixed prices, drove other oilmen out of business, and put the nation's productivity under his heel.  But when the Department of Justice charged criminal violations of of the Sherman Antitrust Act, did it charge John D. Rockefeller?  Was the man behind the scheme convicted for the crimes of monopolization and price "fixing," i.e., gouging the public?  No, "Standard Oil" was.  How nice, since if John D. had been convicted, he'd have found it most inconvenient to occupy a prison cell for even one afternoon.  Whereas his corporate clone, Standard Oil, could easily join Marvin waiting for the collapse of the Milky Way Galaxy at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, and endure the 500,000,000 year wait with greater equanimity.  Poor Marvin, though mechanical, still has a brain, but Standard Oil, the clone of John D. Rockefeller, has none at all.   Corporate law gives to those having property the power to create new legal persons, companies that stalk the earth, pursuing "their own" interests.  By this power to create simulacra of human beings, imbued with rights but not susceptible to pain or punishment, the "tail" of money has truly come to wag the "dog" of human existence, and the right to commit profitable crimes with impunity is now the law of the land.

Ironically, once the people who created mega-corporations lose their place on this earth due to the inevitable process by which human bodies turn from walking, talking, living beings into rotting piles of ordure, their corporate creations live on by the power of the accumulated wealth that they "possess."  These non-humans are essentially unguided, once launched into existence with no mind or sense, merely the mechanism for accomplishing whatever the greed algorithm describes as the pursuit of profit. Individual humans latch on to the lumbering beasts as best they can, seeking roles as oilers, mechanics, maintenance drones, while elites vie for positions in the brains of the beast.

When a beast seems likely to topple, like General Motors, or the entire banking sector, government leaders become more alarmed than they were when they learned that Kennedy was dead, that Nixon was a crook, or that Reagan was demented.  All those things can be dealt with.  But the collapse of a major corporate giant?  The heavens will fall!  Who will save us, if not the great gods of non-existent corporate Olympus?  Hands are wrung, the government coffers are squeezed for the last drop of funding to pump precious billions into the corporate veins, because Daddy is on his deathbead! Those who save a corporate giant from death, as Bush II saved the banks and Obama claims to have saved GM, receive the true honor of the nation -- massive campaign contributions.

Day in, day out, the TV, radio, papers and Internet remind us -- all good comes from the abstract logos, all good people serve the corporati, and the greatest of all humans are the CEOs, the "job-creators," as their worshippers have named them.  Leave aside that corporate profits always rise when jobs are cut, the corporati celebrate their faux creativity, talking from all sides of their mouths about how they have brought us cultural advances that make us truly modern, and render the discovery of fire inconsequential. But modernity is a trope that is constantly recycled in the mechanized world of continuous overproduction, and nothing is so modern as the latest retro style.  Anyone who thinks that the corporati are providing us with anything new would have been impressed by the vastness of Mussolini's army, that marched 'round and 'round the city of Rome, and past the reviewing stand again and again, until at last Il Duce was satisfied that the world was duly impressed with his martial display.

The only cachet comes from bigness. To be small, individual, alone, is sad, pathetic, flirting with nonexistence. In our brief, firefly existence, we cling for constancy to the logos that have been there for us forever -- Coca Cola, GM, Chase, Starbucks, Safeway, WalMart. Corporations produce sweet drinks, soft foods, shiny cars, glowing screens with animated characters, and everything else in your whole life. Or so they say.

Actually, corporations do nothing. Coca Cola never handed you the change when you bought a coke. McDonalds never asked if you wanted to supersize that. Avis didn't try harder, and even though Hertz was #1, it didn't know it. Corporations are phony people. They don't exist. It's a mass hallucination. Like the Matrix. Find me a corporation, grab one by the balls, squeeze them 'til they burst.  Never happen.  Corporations have no balls.  And yet, the corporate managers have our balls in a box, because we humans foolishly participate in this ridiculous charade, and agree that when people join their efforts together, and file some papers with their company name, henceforth that name becomes a person.  Meanwhile, the people running the company become anonymous and act with impunity.  That's a recipe for social self-destruction, as action without consequence becomes the norm, and anyone who commits a crime without corporate cover is an idiot.

People should get the credit for what people do. And people should get the blame.  But who do you blame at "Monsanto" for its endless efforts to monopolize the business of plant genetics by bribing Congress for favorable legislation?  (Monsanto used to be called "DuPont," until its handlers realized that telling people the name of the family that owns the corporation is just asking for undesired publicity.)  The people who run "Monsanto" should be held to answer for what they do when they're pretending to be a corporation.  But they aren't. "Monsanto" is responsible. But Monsanto doesn't exist, and its lawyers and executives bear no personal, moral responsibility for their unethical behavior.  No moral constraints can be brought to bear, and if they are somehow discovered to be involved in corporate wrongdoing, they are simply fired, and the corporation continues on, as blameless as Mother Mary.  Why would the Supreme Court punch a huge hole in the legal responsibility of business like that? Make it possible for people to do something bad, then just say "Harvey did it"?

The GM Cobalt scandal is a recent example of how this hole in the responsibility net claims lives until the thump of bodies hitting the concrete becomes a regular thing. If a small company selling used cars killed a dozen people by selling cars with deadly defects, the owner would go to jail tout suite. Not so at GM, though. In an institution that big, responsibility is always distributed so widely amongst the multitude of decisionmakers earning the big bucks to make the tough calls, that ultimately deadly defects turn out to be of mysterious origin, orphan events without ascertainable causes, bad shit emanating from some mysterious gremlins afflicting the organization, but not wearing nametags. In a corporation, when you go looking for bad apples, you find nothing but oranges.  Right now, we're hearing that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, possibly the only regulatory agency with less teeth than the FDA, is imposing the "largest fine the agency can impose" for sentencing unsuspecting young drivers to a randomly-occurring death sentence.  And how big is that fine?  A whopping $35 Million dollars!  Yeah, that'll teach old GM!  That's .01 percent of the $35 Billion GM made in the first three months of 2014. Big deterrent, huh?  Yeah, I tell you what -- GM, get out of the way.  That deal is too sweet not to cut the rest of us in.

Hiding the people who do the killing for profit that corporations embrace in search of that "improved bottom line" is a very effective strategy.  Not being able to find "the right guy to answer that question" is so well-established that the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure have a provision to deal with it. If you want to know what a company thinks about anything relevant to a lawsuit, you just notice their deposition as "Mr. Frito-lay," and tell them what questions you need answered, and Frito-lay has to produce someone to testify on that topic. That's the easy way to establish "corporate knowledge" in litigation. But just because there's something in the law called "corporate knowledge" doesn't mean there really is a corporation, knowing anything. There's people, in corporate buildings, wearing corporate outfits, knowing things. And in a world where those people hold power to totally screw up lives and destroy property doing stuff for Harvey, since Harvey is just a socially-agreed hallucination, real people need to be held responsible.  Off with the mask, Harvey.  Let's see some ID.

1.C. Eliminate Self-Identification of Americans as "Consumers"

As the Twig Is Bent, So Grows the Tree

From childhood we are taught that we are "social beings." This of course means about as much to a kid as it would if a tuna said to its offspring, "We live in the sea." Our social environment is so all-encompassing that as children, we cannot perceive it as a discrete phenomenon. Children, who are on the front lines of the useless-crap consuming that has driven the U.S. economy since the fifties, can't imagine what life would be without the orgiastic overproduction of those highly desirable objects we call "toys."

Every ToysRUs is a temple where parents go to acquire ritual objects so their children can become adepts in the religion of childhood. Those children who acquire the right toys will become high priests of the backyard and the playroom. When parents club each other in an effort to get the right toy for their little prince or princess, they don't think they're acting insane. They are trying to secure for their children the status that they know the right toys will bring. After all, what heartless parent would send their child into the psychic mosh pits of kindergarten and grade school without the armor of owning the right toys?

The right toys are the ones that confirm that you have been watching the same TV shows as your friends. We'll know that TV is no longer an effective medium for programming children when ToysRUs closes down. I discovered how much my children were programmed by the damn boob tube when I threw away the TV in my third year of law school. We had our best Christmas ever that year, because none of the kids knew what they were supposed to get. They mostly opted to get new clothes, Josh got a skateboard, Maria got a phone, Ana got Hello Kitty stuff, and everybody was happy. None of them complained that their toys were Chinese knockoffs of the real thing, which had been a problem in the past. I still love the picture of them all that Christmas, holding their self-chosen toys, happy consumers all, but a little less programmed than their friends.

A Portrait of the Consumer

In our society, the primary common activity is "consumption." With so many of us laid off, it certainly isn't "production." The production mindset was useful during the Second World War, when we needed to bomb the living daylights out of Europe and the Pacific, but nowadays, it's not good for business to be too productive. I suspect someone in government decided that having a nation full of "producers" is not inherently good for business, because low unemployment puts upward pressure on wages, and high productivity puts downward pressure on prices. As a result, a nation full of producers would be a nation full of people demanding higher wages and lower prices, which is of course just the sort of nightmare to make the head of your local Chamber of Commerce wake up in a cold sweat next to his trophy wife. But of course we know that when that man wakes up in this world, he relaxes and goes back to sleep with a smile on his face. And when his trophy wife says, "What's the matter, honey?" he snuggles up against her and says, "Nothin', baby. They're all consumers."

Everyone seems to accept the definition of Americans as "consumers." What the heck? Is this a good social self-image? Visualize a consumer. I don't know what you see, but I see a big, fat, white baby in Pampers with a bottle of formula in its mouth, suckin' on that plastic nipple and gettin' fatter 'n fatter. Pretty soon it's gonna fill those Pampers full of shit, and then it'll cry until it gets changed. Then it'll start over again. As consumers grow, they acquire consumer skills, i.e., the ability to shop, open the mail, perform simple tasks in the service economy, get payday loans and invent numbers to put on credit card applications.

During the adult stage of a consumer's life, called the "prime of life," because most consumers spend it watching prime-time TV, the consumer reaches their peak level of utility.  The consumer becomes maximally useful when their consumption hits its peak.  In our debt-driven economy, they do this because they have "consumer optimism," i.e., the belief that things are going to get better.  People who think things are going to get better will borrow money, knowing that someday they will have it to pay back.  Thus, believing that one day they will get out of their dead-end job, they will borrow and try to start a family.  A couple of consumers may become the father and mother of other consumers, thus employing doctors. Inevitably, they will have a divorce, and their children will get into trouble, thus employing lawyers. Tough as life is, thanks to their unrequited consumer optimism, the hardest working will give "employment" their best shot, and cook up a TV-dinner version of the American dream that will saddle them with high-interest debt for years, thus producing revenue for bankers.

For most consumers, the primary benefit to having a job is that they get to say they are "employed." This legendary condition is said to confer a sense of self-respect, but as many a formerly-employed consumer will tell you, employment is not all it's cracked up to be. At all events, employment rarely lasts for long these days, and losing it forever has turned into the final horizon for many people whose odometer has gone past 55.

The aging consumer, having served the economy to the best of their consuming ability, having been put outside the realm of employability due to their lack of cutting-edge skills and youthful charm, is statistically likely to fall prey to anxiety, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other expensive illnesses available cheap from WalMart. Thus, consumers must consume tranquilizers, insulin, heart medications, and painkillers. They pass from being youthful consumers of entertainment and trivial junk to being aging consumers of "health care," i.e., drugs and expensive procedures, thus providing revenue for the all-important "health care industry." Finally, the vital spirit will leave the consumer, and the corpse they leave behind will give employment to the death industry, which as we know, is thriving.

How different is the life of a consumer from that of a producer! What could a person produce? Anything, really. It's not that we don't have the impulse to produce, but we have been frustrated by a society that makes our creativity irrelevant. It's almost like a conspiracy to make people useless. Thought you could fix cars? Try to tune up a new car without a large manual and a computer. Thought you could program computers? People in India can do it better and faster. Thought you could sing? Who cares -- the airwaves are cluttered with voices. Want to spread a political idea? Go talk to yourself in the free speech zone.

In the Aggregate, Consumers Comprise an Economy, Not a Society

We've accepted our individual identity as consumers, so what are we in the aggregate? You're not going to like this, because consumers, in the aggregate, do not form a social grouping. A nation-sized group of consumers is simply referred to as "the economy." There are no reports on the creative achievements of consumers, unless of course eating contests, stock car races, and school shootings are considered consumer achievements. If you are puzzled by my inclusion of the last, just consider that each school shooter buys a great deal more ammunition than he uses, due to the tendency to stockpile more guns and bullets than can realistically be deployed in one's last stand against the evil society that has oppressed one since childhood. And every school shooting provides a powerful impulse for more police expenditures, more militarization of the schools, and more belief in the need for high-powered weapons in the hands of -- consumers!  Obama's response to the crisis of juvenile time bombs going off all over the country is tailored for mass consumption -- give them more tranquilizers.

So a society of consumers is not a society at all. It's just an aggregation of people who are totally hypnotized by material appearances, who identify themselves exclusively with the space contained within their skin, and pursue their individual desires on an ad hoc basis from moment to moment, based on commercial prompts. They lurch from one BigMac Attack to the next, pitting their resources against the menu in an effort to acquire what rudiments of self-respect can be discovered in a Happy Meal. They do not know what it is to experience themselves as members of a group that they feel accepts and appreciates them. Mature consumers thus experience life as the freedom to purchase in an environment where everything truly desirable is beyond their reach, i.e., poverty.

Mature consumers are politically neuter, true "swing" voters who provide the ignorant weight that keeps our ship of state listing to the stupid side. They know nothing about their own interests, because they have never considered them outside the structure of consumerism.

True Self-Interest As the Basis for Social Alliances

To take our leave of consumerism, we must identify our own interests, and align with people of similar interests. Perhaps this seems obvious, but few people practice it. Indeed, those people most convinced that they have joined a group that will advance their interests are mere dupes. Political parties provide an excellent example of this phenomenon. Most Latino voters vote Democratic, and most pundits say the Latino vote sent Obama up to play God, giving him omniscience and putting hellfire in his hand. He gets to see where you were when you made your last phonecall, in case he needs to dispatch a drone to kill you, so the rest of us will be a little safer.

But does Obama show any gratitude to Mexicans for helping him get over? No, Mexicans are the new negroes. Does Obama invite any Mexicans to come and do a fiesta in the Rose Garden? No, he's not a Republican, so he can't advertise his love of enchiladas like Bush did. Does Michelle go to the Mexican border to see if she can make the Immigration and Customs policies a little more humane, and stop separating families like slavers once separated black American families? No, no, no. They don't give us Mexicans a fuckin' plate to admire our beans on.

During the 2008 election, my wife and I were so lonely that we went to the Nader convention in Denver. There we saw thousands of people who were all equally underwhelmed by Obama, enough to rally around the only man with the courage to call phony democracy by its true name. We had great speeches by Ralph and Jello Biafra, we had great music from Nellie McKay, we raised our spirits and raised some money for Ralph. What others called our futile gesture was not futile. To find a suitable quote for our group sentiment, I will quote the Spaniard who, through four years in litigation, forced Google to take his name out of the search engine -- "Resistance is victory!"

But back in 2008, Nader was not the man to support if you wanted to keep your liberal friends and relations happy. There was a project on to make people feel that Obama would be their president. Black Americans rallied to the man they thought was their man, and young people of all ethnicities came along, ready to believe that the man who talked like a high school basketball coach, who believed every player counted, was going to coach their team. Obama's social media meisters had the numbers, the email lists, the fast-response polling data that it takes to morph a message minute by minute, day after day, nudging public opinion into a pocket, until you almost have to win. "Exit polls revealed that Obama had won nearly 70 percent of the vote among Americans under age 25—the highest percentage since U.S. exit polling began in 1976."

Will We Find Our Allies on Facebook?

Obama appointed Chris Hughes, twenty-something Facebook co-founder, to run his Internet marketing campaign. Smart move. Hughes copped User ID Number 5 at Facebook as a people person who focused on user issues, and volunteered his way into the number one Internet job in Obama's campaign machine. By 2007, Obama's Facebook page had 250,000 likes to Hilary's 3,200. Today, BarackObama has over 44 million likes and Hillary2016 has under 400,000. Having helped his man capture the White House, Hughes capped his Facebook tenure by taking $700,000,000 out of the IPO, and bought the New Republic with some change he fished out of the sofa cushions.

Considering how quickly Hughes built a competitor-crushing political machine using social networks, makes you wonder just how much social networks can do to influence politics. I found the answer on the first page of NewRepublic.com. A recent experiment showed that Facebook postings increased voting in a recent election by .39%. When the numbers get into the thousands, those percentages start to decide elections. Attorney Jonathan Zittrain wrote the article, in which he identifies the potential for "digital gerrymandering" by social networking platforms that could send a "get out the vote" message exclusively to people who are voting their way.

Zittrain suggests that for Twitter, or Facebook, or any social network to engage in digital gerrymandering would be so far beyond the pale that ... well -- he doesn't say it won't happen. Let me tell you -- it will inevitably happen unless steps are taken to prevent it, because American consumers are Facebookers.

Facebook has turned out to be a wonderful place for unemployed consumers to while away their time without burning up gasoline driving around looking for a job that doesn't exist. It concentrates all the vulnerable people who are struggling with the collapse of the American economy that began in year 2000 and has never ended, who find themselves in need of some face-saving activity to soak up their excessive spare time. While being addicted even to something as innocuous as chocolate is a private sin indulged in secrecy, being a Facebook addict is openly confessed, as if it were not an admission that, as the alcoholics put it, "we have lost control over our lives."

But on Facebook, you say, we have found our true communities!  Oh yes, enough to fill an Arab jail!  More about foreign policy later, though.  Let's focus on domestic consumers.  Yes, you can find people of like mind on Facebook, but you will find it easiest to talk about consumption.  The primary purpose of Facebook is to track consumer likes, compile the data, and sell it to advertisers. Zuckerberg didn't choose that word "like" carelessly. The one important thing a consumer does is to like things. Because first you like them, then you buy them. If you don't like them, your opinion's not going to help make a sale, so that explains the missing "dislike" button upon which so many Facebookers have commented.

If you seek to join political speech on Facebook, you will discover that most activist Facebook pages are dominated by whoever happened to be tech-savvy enough to start the page.  These self-styled technorati use their power to ban, delete, and censor posts freely, so the Pizza Effect goes into operation, and Facebook speech turns into an exercise in groupthink.  Sure you can organize the next meeting handily, and extend the geographic reach of your group for fundraising purposes, and all that other stuff that Chris Hughes is so good at, but you know who he's working for, and he's not an activist.

Since all good liberals know that Obama would never send a hellfire missile down a domestic chimney, we make it a practice to ignore all of the bad news coming from the NSA, the CIA, and the Pentagon.  Nothing bad will happen due to our wholesale revelation of our lives on Facebook.  Really?  Of course you're not a child porn fan, so you don't need to worry that the FBI is trolling for people of that ilk.  But they got a much longer list of bad deeds than "child porn" to investigate.  Being an Arab, and friending websites that criticize U.S. Middle East policy would be a smart thing only if you are planning your own martyrdom.  Would they be talking with real people or FBI agents? Maybe just some down-on-their luck Arab student who overstayed his visa and is working for the FBI hoping to avoid deportation by tending Internet honey pots.

Back in 2012, the FBI was pressuring Facebook, Google, Twitter and other tech data giants to install a digital backdoor to allow their agents access to all their user data.  In 2013, Snowden told us they had done it, and we got a snow flurry of doublespeak from Zuckerberg, Brin, and Obama that just knocked it right out of the consumer attention zone.  We now can be pretty clear from what we've seen in Egypt, that all that digital, online networking helps oppressive regimes pinpoint dissidents with GPS-level accuracy.

Facebook is a store of personal data so tasty that it is drawing hackers to it like a bowl of fruit attracts gnats.  Facebook is attacked by hackers continuously because the rewards of a single good hack can be substantial.  Just having a friend with a weak password can expose Facebookers to malware attacks that do things like send out messages asking your friends to wire money because you got mugged in Istanbul.  Many of those hackers work for the government, doing things the government isn't supposed to do, like Sabu, one of the Occupy founders who farmed out work to young hackers who hacked for the FBI without realizing how their anarchist efforts had been redirected.  Facebook is really nasty territory in which to deposit your life secrets. 

Not only is it unsafe, it's a bad deal.  By opening a Facebook account, populating it with your life history, and linking to your friends, you turn your relationships into Facebook's property.  Your relationships are the map of your motivations.  Facebook doesn't care about you at all, but it really loves your motivations.  As soon as it has them figured out, it will take away features you "like" and sell them back to you.  Take for example the right to have your friends hear you.  Used to be a post was a post, and all your friends would see it.  But now, only one out of ten friends sees your post -- unless you pay.  This is so unfriendly.

The nastiest blow, to a nation that once saw itself as capable of overcoming any obstacle, will be the death of the salesman.  Sellers of products and services have never liked salesmen all that much.  Google killed most of the world's advertising agencies and its largest media outlets for pre-Internet advertising -- the newspapers and magazines.  Now Facebook is closing in on the marketers.  Consumers will take the job over.  In exchange for a makeup kit or some lingerie, a young person can now find gainful employment tweeting or Facebooking the proof of their satisfaction with the product.  The practice is taking off, and is said to generate more sales than standard advertising.  When Facebook and the other online "communities" are done, the last bastion of American employment -- salesmanship -- will collapse. Consumers will do all the selling, and Willie Loman will take his last bow. Poor bastard. He wanted to be productive.


STATEMENT OF DISASSOCIATION WITH WIKIPEDIA:

To all ABOL users

Recently it has come to the attention of the Librarian that Wikipedia, a resource that has been cited repeatedly by the Librarian, is not only of questionable reliability, particularly with respect to its biographical reports of current figures, but also that it appears to be completely untrue to its stated mission of compiling knowledge in a true "open-source" environment.  In fact, recent, reliable reportage indicates that the Wikipedia system is entirely controlled by a cadre of young men with axes to grind and a misogynistic game plan for shaping the Internet public's view of current events.  Accordingly, the Library will no longer cite Wikipedia as a resource, and cautions all users with respect to any statements attributed to Wikipedia found in the Library, that such material should be viewed with suspicion, although not necessarily incorrect or unreliable.  Library users are invited to email the librarian with any specific information regarding Wikipedia references found in the Library.
--5/24/13


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