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writing for godot

The Mask of Democracy. (part 2 of 2)

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Saturday, 09 January 2021 19:47


Food for an intermezzo thought (2)


Human Rights Reader 559b

[I interrupted the regular weekly uploading of my Readers to share with you a really important piece very much in the spirit of this Reader. It is rather longish so I split it into two. Part 1 was uploaded last week. Your feedback will be shared with the author].


Kristian Laubjerg*


[TLDR (too long didn’t read): This Reader is about the role of media-induced fear, of foundations spreading their view of governance and of creating solidarity and fostering a rebellion against the many distorted uses of human rights principles. For a quick overview, just read the bolded text].


The media and ‘democracy’ promotion


19. The media play a key role in the process of imparting the ‘right’ understanding of democracy. The News Corporations, owned by Rupert Murdoch, controls Fox News, the most popular TV station in the US and the New York Post. These networks operate hand in hand with Freedom House and other institutions advocating democracy and human rights by manipulating populations to assume that they are free to control conditions that affect their daily lives. Human rights principles inform them, that they can hold elected government officials accountable when in fact governments in capitalist democracies are primarily answerable to their sponsors in the corporate world. Capitalist democracies frequently emphasize freedom of speech as a key element of democracy. In principle, journalists play a key role in the implementation of democracy by providing the electorate with valid (?) information about events affecting their daily situation. The electorate is thus usually of the belief that they cast their vote on the basis of an informed choice. When Julian Assange went public with facts on US war crimes committed by its army in Iraq, he was accused of espionage and treason by the US government. A similar fate came to Daniel Ellsberg, when he exposed war crimes committed by the same US army in Vietnam. It is a travesty that the US Government in the process of advancing democracy violates its core principles. Journalists who dare to undertake investigative reporting into too much depth often find themselves without a job, in prison or murdered. The proprietors of the media have no interest in disclosing the exploitative and abusive structure of so-called democratic societies. The media is about making money and selling programs, preferably by entertainment, while seeking to influence the public opinion. At a time, when the rights to expression and opinion are controlled by Murdoch, Turner and Bill Gates, it has been noted that these rights become the spiritual equivalents of private property rights.


Advancing democracy by fear


20. The media have discovered the commercial value of presenting their shows with an element of fear. This falls very much in line with the objectives of western capitalist oligarchies because fear, when associated with the threat of cherished values, helps to create unity among an otherwise divided people. Those in power for good reasons fear that if people realized what takes place behind the mask of democracy, they would rise against the oppressors. We are beginning to see mass reactions to the injustice suffered by billions of people, not only in developing countries, but also in France, USA, the UK and other capitalist oligarchies. Instead of ensuring just and equal conditions for all of its citizens at home, the USA has embarked on a crusade of democracy promotion abroad, often applying means which violate those same human rights principles, they pretend to adhere to. The rhetoric applied by the political elite is slowly being seen for what it is: hollow and false. The right to democracy does not apply to everybody, but is merely a mask projected by the oligarchs. Modification of the meaning of democracy carries the risk of unmasking the political elite and their sponsors as the real cause of the evils affecting the majority of people. Therefore, people must be brought to confront the threat of those values that, if eroded, would threaten community stability. Fear obscures political conflicts and helps to present capitalism as the only solution and not as a problem. However, the most salient fear that controls our lives and limits our possibilities is the fear among working people of their ruthless supervisors who benefit from the injustices imposed on them.


Human Rights for the oligarchs


21. One has to understand the Universal Declaration of  HR’s strong emphasis on freedom and its much weaker accent on equality which continues to be perceived as an endorsement of a socialist ideology. The Declaration was never seen by the USSR as an important document since it gave more emphasis to negative freedoms. To liberals, this implies strong limitations on the activities of the state in favor of removing obstacles to individual initiatives. The USSR stressed positive freedoms to be understood as self-realization or as the self-determination of the individual or of the collectivity. The realization of this kind of freedom requires occasionally state intervention and control. The declaration was drafted under the chairmanship of Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of the US president and was adopted in December 1948, with eight abstentions, including the Soviet block countries. The declaration came out at a time, when most of Africa was under colonial rule. Blacks in the USA lived segregated lives and women suffered great inequality in most parts of the world, perhaps except for those in the USSR. Some commentators have found that the declaration made real people into abstractions. The real human in the declaration is a “… wealthy, white, heterosexual, male bourgeois standing in for universal humanity who combines the dignity of humanity with the privileges of the elite”.


22. Through control of the media, the oligarchs have succeeded to make people accept that justice is similar to human rights. They have convinced most people that their rights are better protected by the oligarchs than under a government controlled by the people themselves. Democracy and human rights have instead become tools for the advancement of capitalism and a life of wealth and privileges for a tiny elite of oligarchs.


The right to rebel


23. The precursor of all human rights is the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, drafted by the French revolutionaries and approved by the French Constituent Assembly in 1789, shortly after the storming on the Bastille, which was seen as the symbolic manifestation of the despotic and undemocratic reign by King Louis XVI. Within the framework of the declaration of these rights, the King was guillotined in 1793 for treason. Article two of the declaration made specific mention of the right to resistance to oppression. Contrary to the French Declaration (1789), the Universal Declaration of 1948 became an instrument of oppression in the hands of the new empire and its neoliberal vassals. It is used daily to intimidate sovereign countries, not yet convinced about the benefits of the free market. It carries no mention of the right to rebel against oppression. On the contrary, the Universal Declaration stresses law and order, and states explicitly in article 30 that these rights are given to prevent radical changes. These rights have become a kind of insurance policy for the established order. But it does not always protect the oppressors.


Corporate endowed foundations


24. The ruling elite in the so-called free world is bent on establishing a governance system that would give them a free hand to rule the world with the consensus of the people, thus averting rebellion against the oligarchs and their transnational enterprises. To maintain their hegemony, the corporations consider it imperative that citizens be brought to believe that they are in control and free to determine their own destiny. They believe this to be a precondition for law and order, peace and stability. Therefore, they very early realized the importance of the voice of the people, as long as they could control the character and volume of that voice. The establishment of foundations empowered by large enterprises was meant to serve this general objective. Today, foundations have assets worth more than 450 billion US dollars. With such a huge capital they exert a significant influence anywhere they choose to support, even when institutions receive funding from elsewhere. Their greatest threat to democracy lies in their translation of wealth into power.


25. Among the first ones was the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Rockefeller Foundation, which were established early in the last century. Together they formed the Council on Foreign Relations in 1921. The Council is the most powerful pressure group on US policies domestically and abroad. The CFR needs no financial contributions from the public to meet the costs of its annual budget. The presence of some of the richest people on earth on the board of the foundations has made it imperative to stress the good work they do for the common man and for mankind in general, Thus, Rockefeller has listed on its website an initiative which aims at ‘scaling solutions for workers by advancing policies to boost earnings for America’s working families’. One could justly argue that if these foundations really wanted to improve welfare for working-class families, they could begin by paying their worker’s decent salaries.


26. It is characteristic for all corporate foundations: they apply a vocabulary that misleads people to believe that their primary objectives are to alleviate suffering. Their frequent reference to strengthen democratic values and human rights contributes only to conceal their real purpose, which is that of ensuring the global position of their sponsors --transnational businesses.


27. Corporate foundations, regardless of which enterprise gave them their name, for good reasons fear that people one day will rise against the violence conferred upon them in the form of law and order democracy. With a view to counteracting this to happen, the foundations have now, for more than 70 years, invested heavily in civil societies, international NGOs and international educational institutions. The Ford Foundation has funded economy courses at universities in Indonesia. Elite students were later selected and trained by US officers in counter-insurgency. They played an important role in the killings of hundreds of thousands of communists in the mid-60s. Chilean students got Rockefeller scholarships to attend courses at the University of Chicago, where they were trained in neoliberal economics by Milton Friedman. They were actively assisting the CIA to prepare and execute the coup that killed the democratically elected president Allende. This only goes to show that the frequent emphasis on democracy, human rights and equal opportunities mainly serves as an ornamental addition to ensure that the corporate world can exert its planetary control.


28. The role of corporate endowed foundations has also been successful in rewriting history in order to give presentations that are in line with their ideology and mission. Martin Luther King serves as an example of this. When the war in Vietnam was at its highest, he stated that “We cannot remain silent as our nation engages in one of history’s most cruel and senseless wars”. King noticed the efforts of the establishment, especially the military, to silence dissent and to keep the public ignorant about the costs involved in the war. King dared to make the forbidden connection between capitalism, racism and the Vietnam War. The Ford Foundation together with Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Mobil, US Steel and several others provided grants to the widow of Martin Luther King thus enabling her to found the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. An analysis of philanthropic foundations concludes that “The cumulative effect is that foundations, despite the pretext of progressive goals, have a depoliticizing effect, one that preserves the hegemony of neoliberal institutions.


29. The corporate world is not the only one to present its mission to the world in glamorous and people-friendly terms. The United Nations also masters the art of concealing its role as part of the network controlled by the oligarchs. The UN was founded back in 1948 and constructed its headquarter on land purchased by Rockefeller in Manhattan in New York City.


Democracy promotion UN Style


30. In 2007, the General Assembly of the United Nations approved resolution A/62/7 on ‘Support by the United Nations system of the efforts of governments to promote and consolidate new or restored democracies’. The UN resolution was a desperate effort of the world community made to take the lead over the US with regard to defining and implementing democracy.


31. The conflict between the UN and the USA is clearly seen with regard to bringing to justice culprits committing crimes against humanity. The Universal Declaration of Democracy stated in its last paragraph (27) that “in order to strengthen international criminal justice, democracies must reject impunity for international crimes and serious violations of fundamental human rights and support the establishment of a permanent international criminal court”. The USA, however, does not accept to be subjected to a different concept of justice, if it is not its own brainchild. The law on Democracy Promotion provides for the USA to investigate and take action against its own offenders of international laws. In an effort to take the lead the UN Secretary-General issued a guidance note on democracy (2009).


32. Distancing itself from the US, it states that “the Organization has never sought to export or promote any particular national or regional model of democracy”. The note stresses that “no amount of external assistance will create democracy” It must grow from within. With this position, the UN invites the foundations and other private organizations, such as NED and Soros’ Open Society to mobilize civil societies and NGOs. The note mentions the importance of the freedom of the media to ensure the availability of information for a critical population. However, the need for the media to be independent of corporate power is not mentioned. Neither is the importance of a strong state to set rules and standards to ensure that its people have real possibilities to live and grow without the interference of corporate interests.


Good governance and human rights programming


33. I was witness to observe a growing instrumental role of the UN in the hands of particularly US-based TNCs after the Monterrey Declaration (2002), which is strongly influenced by corporate interests. It charged the UN country team with the promotion of ‘good governance’. Whether or not a country would rank as democratic came to depend on its willingness to work with international capitalism. Introducing free markets became more important than the fight against poverty and reduction of child mortality. Applying the UN jargon, program planning was now referred to as human rights programming. Assistance to poor countries to solve their social problems became contingent upon their willingness to open up markets to outside competitors and their capacity for ‘good governance’.


34. The UN recognized that it was necessary to protect individual rights from abuses and exploitation of TNCs. With the objective to introduce some measures of control of the uncoordinated activities of Corporate Endowed Foundations and their sponsors, the Secretary-General of the UN-appointed a Special Representative on Human Rights and TNCs and Other Business Enterprises. This representative worked from 2005 until 2011 with the main objective: “To provide views and recommendations on ways to strengthen the fulfillment of the duty of the State to protect all human rights from abuses by TNCs and other business enterprises….”. The Special Representative prepared yet another set of Guiding Principles which established global standards for preventing and addressing the risk of adverse impacts on human rights linked to business activity. This was a way for the UN to wash its hands, while the TNCs continued business as usual.


Homo economicus or homo solidaricus


35. In capitalist oligarchies, practically no importance is given to the social contract, that normally determines the relationship with citizens thus ensuring their welfare and justice. The role of the state is particularly felt when the market collapses. Then the private sector calls upon the government to come to its rescue. This happened during the financial crisis in 2007/8 and during the ongoing Corona virus pandemic. Governments were asked to save the capitalist world with financial support packages for the collapsing enterprises so that their exploitative system can continue unabated. Ironically, this is the idea of ‘socialism’ for the stockholders.


36. The future looks more and more grim for populations in capitalist countries. The oligarchs control the destiny of the planet and its people. Protests are spreading in reaction to rising hardships for a majority of people in these countries. The question is: What can be done to turn this situation around in a peaceful manner?


37. An indispensable kickoff for systemic change would be to identify all elements of the current political system that ‘manufacture’ inequality. Therefore, all cross-ownership in businesses must be stopped. Weapons manufacturers cannot own TV stations, corporations and their foundations cannot fund universities, and the pharmaceutical companies cannot control public health funds. Secondly, natural resources and essential infrastructures --water supply, electricity, health and education cannot be privatized. These two conditions for the creations of a more just society will not by itself lead to the disappearance of the capitalist system --that has successfully convinced us all to accept that the achievements of human rights is the ultimate justice it pursues. But human rights drafted under the leadership of the wife of an American president is mainly used by the corporate world and its network to secure stability by enslaving populations under a system of law and order, with zero tolerance of rebellion against oppression. The control of our lives is total and has become so in an almost unnoticeable manner.


38. The working poor do not perceive law-and-order democracy as violent, although they have lost their humanity and identity in a war of classes. Breaking this power is rarely done through a general strike or even prolonged demonstrations, as we have seen in France with the movement of the yellow vests.


39. The predominant image of mankind is one of homo economicus. A new and conflicting image of homo solidaricus is gradually emerging during the Covid pandemic suggesting that man indeed is able to act in solidarity and with empathy with his fellow citizens. The question is whether this new man will be allowed to replace the current system through peaceful means, or whether it can only come about as a result of radical activities aiming at a system change and thus an end to the global power of oligarchs through their control of large corporations and their supporting international institutions.




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