Authored by Miki Pannell
Are we really dumb enough to believe it possible to map out political thought on a single two-point left to right line? Are we really supposed to take the Political Pepsi Challenge and plump for either the right wing blues or the left wing reds? One might argue that this polarization has come about to trick us into thinking that we have some kind of real consumer choice when we head to the ballot box. After all, every major democracy in the world has a Pepsi-Coke two-party system. The old anarchist adage goes ‘It doesn’t matter who you vote for, the government always wins’, or put another way, ‘…the same rabble of mercenaries representing the same handful of mega-wealthy kleptocrats always wins.’
There were a fair few eyebrows raised after Americans ousted George Bush for Obama’s ‘Yes We can’ administration, not least when the new president drafted in the identical economic team who had so recently crashed the entire world economy. Same fakes and fraudsters, different flags.
The Pepsi Challenge, incidentally, has been around since the late 1970s, when, one might argue, the real convergence of political ideologies was also underway. Over the coming decade it became increasingly more difficult to distinguish between left and right. In Britain, many of the basic tenets of traditional conservatism such as privatisation, ‘get tough on crime’ campaigns or lower taxes were creeping into left wing domain. Stateside things were even more blurred.
When two sugary drinks are so similar that many can’t tell the difference blindfolded, all it takes a shrewd marketing team to mark out the difference. It was little surprise that we saw the emergence of the political ‘spin doctor’ in precisely that period, on hand to revamp and re-marketing even the dullest same-old product.
We've been suckered on a huge scale. At no time in recent history has there been such bickering between left and right. Maybe there was some similar dynamic at play in the late 1970s with groups like the Anti-Nazi League, the National Front and the Socialist Worker Party, but it remained fairly marginalized. Currently, we’ve got the right and left battling it out both on social media and even in the streets. Yet the parties representing them are scarily similar. In the States both major parties continue to support the gun lobby; both support the industrial-military foreign war lobby. In Britain, they may have outlawed guns, but both labour and conservatives voted in favour of continuing to fund the multi-billion pound Trident nuclear programme. Which maybe explains why the anachronistic Jeremy Corbyn looks so appealing to Brits – he’s not so much Pepsi or Coca Cola as a glass of orange squash.
While we argue about the blue and red of our cola packaging, the purple of Tony Blair’s tie, or how much the reds are paying Facebook to help swing a U.S. election, we are distracted from the far shadier behind-the-scenes dealings.
The truth is that our democracies are a mockery. They have been usurped by corporations and foreign influence, by means of a vast web of lobbying power. There are around twenty-five lobbyists per U.S. senator, while Britain’s parliament is easily swayed by massive local and foreign-funded persuaders. Most resistance is pacified by a vast arsenal of PR heavy artillery. This includes huge numbers of high-profile, but bogus, institutions such as the IEA and Adams Smith Institute in the UK, or the Cato Institute, Atlantic Council, Heritage Foundation or literally countless others in the U.S. The sole purpose of many of these organisations is to discredit any individual or political ideology at odds with their apocryphal free market and anti-regulation agendas. The contributors behind many of these organisations are quite literally ashamed to reveal their identities. More often than not the culprits are trans-national corporations, but increasingly, they are warring foreign states.
Media sources are currently running around with their hair on fire about supposed Russian funding to influence elections. Yet, why so little mention of terrorist nations such as Saudi Arabia who continue to lavish gargantuan sums via lobbyists to prevent Congress from intervening in the Saudi genocide in Yemen? These donations totally dwarf the measly alleged $44,000 a Russian troll farm spent on Facebook memes.
The Intercept reports, 'That measure also met with stiff resistance from the Saudi government, which maintains one of the largest lobbying operations in Washington. Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck LLP, a lobbying firm initially hired by the Saudi government on a $100,000-a-month retainer, met with key lawmakers to influence the resolution.'
Britain too, in spite of huge public disapproval of the bloodshed in Yemen, as well as from both sides of parliament, has caved under the pressure of lobbying power. Could it be something to do with the fact that, once again, rogue state Britain is producing most of the arms being supplied for the bloodbath?
What solutions can be offered? While lobbying itself is, to a degree, a legitimate part of the democratic process, its influence has snowballed to such an extent that it has rendered democratic consensus, on most issues, almost worthless. 85% of the population’s opposition to the Iraq war was incapable of counteracting the effects of the pro-war pressure groups. Nevertheless, the first step in curtailing the power of such influence, would be to stop promoting these sham institutions on public television. Many would argue that the mainstream press and the BBC in Britain are little more than lickspittles and PR fronts for whom Chomsky refers to as the ‘Masters of the Universe’. No business channel or BBC political or current affairs show is complete without some duplicitous stooge, such as Kate Andrews, or some other thinly-veiled corporate lobbyist promoting the bad actors. Their ‘free market’ pitch has a hollow ring to it when the same groups are privately rigging the entire democratic system. If lobby groups choose to fund private media channels, that might seem fairly legitimate. But getting us to pay for their propaganda, by means of our TV licences, while fobbing us off with phoney, fizzy-pop political distractions… forget it.