“A rambling anti-American, anti-capitalist, pro-collectivist rant” is how one attendee described tonight’s lecture on Global Discontents: Conversations on the Rising Threats to Democracy. Held at Events on Emerson in Hoquiam, the presentation was sponsored by the Grays Harbor Institute as part of its 2018 Speaker Series. It featured “radio broadcaster, social critic, investigative journalist, and political activist” David Barsamian. The founder and director of Alternative Radio, Barsamian’s publishing credits include books with Noam Chomsky, Eqbal Ahmad, Howard Zinn, and Tariq Ali.
Introduced by GHI President Gary Murrell, Barsamian opened his remarks with, “Good evening brothers and sisters, comrades and friends.”
A slight, elderly man who was generally soft-spoken, Barsamian is clearly unhappy with the state of the country, the world, and what he perceives to be the egregious inequities of life, power, and income evident in America today.
A Dangerous Moment
“We can clearly see we’re in a very dangerous moment in the history of this county and the world,” Barsamian began. He said that danger includes “the destruction of our homes and the planet earth.” How all this “destruction” is occurring and who is responsible was the focus of Barsamian’s talk to a rapt audience of about sixty that hung on his every syllable.
According to Barsamian, we are committing “Tierracide” – the “destruction of the earth” – in the chase for the Almighty Buck. He laid the blame for this crime at the feet of the “predatory capitalist regime” operating in Washington, D.C.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before.
“Why are these things happening?” Barsamian asked rhetorically as he spoke about a “ruling class” that has emerged whose sole focus is the betterment of themselves and lining their pockets at the expense of the old, the infirm, the displaced, the immigrant, minorities, the poor, day-old tofu and wilted arugula.
According to Barsamian, who refused to name Donald Trump but deployed a pseudonym – Our Exalted Leader – instead, the current “regime” in D.C. is carrying out “crimes against humanity and against Mother Nature.”
“This is a critical moment where we have to engage the power structures in our communities and push back” against those who seek to enrich themselves at the expense of Mother Nature. “This is not a time for fence-sitting.”
Noting that today is the 75th anniversary of the execution of the leaders of the White Rose movement, Barsamian lurched into a bizarre rant linking “Our Exalted Leader” (Trump) with Hitler and the Third Reich, fascism, Nazism, and every social ill under the sun, barring stale tofu and a calamitous shortage of arugula.
Citing a Washington Post report of “2,100 documented lies said by Our Exalted Leader,” Barsamian equated Trump’s skewering of “fake news” with “the language of Stalin and Hitler” and every tyrant in history. “Right here in the land of freedom and liberty we have a president that’s attacking journalists as the enemy of the people.” Trotting out the McCarthy card he said, “Our right to protest is under attack.”
Not to fear. Because his job as an independent journalist “is to break through the silence” allegedly imposed by the Trump Administration on the free press and free speech.
Harkening back to the White Rose movement, Barsamian said, we’re “not at that point yet” – of jack-booted thugs battering down doors in the dead of night and hauling people off to concentration camps – “but we can’t wait for that to happen.” He said, we “have to be anticipatory about the trends and projections that are in play now.”
Hey, Haiti. How’s that Clinton “disaster capital” workin’ for ya?
“United, we are powerful” he said. “Singly, we’re not so powerful.” That’s because “they” want us “isolated” and “fixated” on our hand-held devices. He said when people come up to him and ask, “What can I do?” they’re asking the wrong question. The correct question – and this is quite telling, incidentally – is, “What can we do?”
Much hand-wringing about “attacks on unions” ensued. Barsamian characterized such “attacks” as “a great blow to democracy.”
“Why do the bosses fear workers? They fear organized workers because organized workers can push back.” Saying these attacks are funded by the Koch brothers, Steve Wynn and others, such attacks represent a “concerted erosion of union solidarity.” He said Chomsky talks about the issues and the need to “recover that sense of community” and the need to “discover we are part of something much bigger than ourselves.”
“There’s definitely a whiff of fascism in the air” continued Barsamian. “We have to be very vigilant and alert to it” and challenge it. “We have to get away from tweets and into the streets. We have to get off Facebook and get into the faces of politicians who are making these decisions… about the greatest transfer of wealth” away from lower and middle income classes to “the top one percent.”
Apparently “privatizing” education and abolishing the IRS are a big no-no for the collectivist crowd, too.
Barsamian also spoke about Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement. Barsamian said post-Lincoln Memorial “I Have a Dream Speech, the “real” MLK emerged. “In subsequent years” King was a “radical” who called the U.S. “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today,” according to MLK’s Riverside Church speech. Barsamian also said King saw a “deep connection between race and class and militarization.”
Barsamian has a thing about the “military-industrial complex.” That’s code for Axis of Evil.
The Role of the Media
“Our democracy is under attack” he said, bemoaning how the media have been consolidated into a handful of venues that people can see and read. “We live in the era of fake news and a huge explosion of propaganda distributed by social media.” Today there are about five corporations that dominate the media,” which is why there’s “so much confusion.”
Barsamian linked the Trump “America First” slogan with Charles Lindbergh’s “America First” movement. Check that out for yourself here. Later, Barsamian called the Trump “America First program” a “xenophobic, nativist regime.” And some other stuff that was semi-intelligible.
Seconds on tofu, anyone?
“Electronic Nuremburg Rallies”
Barsamian’s disdain for President Trump was on full display when he spoke about Trump’s “electronic Nuremburg rallies.” Those are events where “Our Great Leader leads chants like, Lock her up, build the wall, drain the swamp. Barsamian also likened Trump rallies to Nazi propaganda techniques a la Josef Goebbels, which were effective when endlessly repeated. “That’s why 60 million voted to put him into the Oval Office.”
Although the evils of capitalism were roundly decried by Barsamian throughout his hour-ish talk, he paused in his lecture at about 7:45 p.m. to hawk his books, radio program and CDs. They were on sale, incidentally, not free giveaways. (Ruminate on that for a moment. That’s okay. I’ll wait.)
Wandering into his connection with Noam Chomsky, Barsamian said Chomsky “practically” invented the academic discipline of linguistics. “If you can’t control the language, you can’t control people. This is the lesson of Orwell in 1984.” Coming from his linguistics background, Noam Chomsky is “uniquely positioned” to peel away the layers of lies coming out of the mouths of politicians, said Barsamian, who noted that lying politicians aren’t exactly new. But “the source of this lying is perhaps over the top.”
Potshots at Pence
Pivoting from popping Trump to taking cheap pot shots at Veep Mike Pence, Barsamian said, “Before we start chanting, ‘impeach,’ look at the 800-pound gorilla behind him.” Piling on the anti-Christian bigotry band wagon, Barsamian derided Pence as a “religious fundamentalist.” Apparently that’s synonymous with “contagious disease” in the lexicon of Looney Leftism. He said Pence is “extremely conservative” and a “misogynist” with extreme views on women and probably – gasp! – Mother Earth and arugulga.
Barsamian isn’t exactly the president of the Neil Gorsuch Fan Club, either. In case you’re wondering.
The Eeevil Military
Barsamian seemed particularly put off by all things military, including spending, rebuilding, and “Doomsday” machines. Ditto Aircraft carriers and destroyers That. Actually. Float. And military aircraft That. Actually. Fly. “The amount of money we spend on the military is never enough,” he said. (He’s probably peeved about MREs, too. But I didn’t ask.)
However, “Mr. B.” was all in when it comes to “health care for all, free college education, great art and culture” and “protecting and nurturing our environment.” But he was mega-miffed about “The madness of the military and the infatuation with power and bombs and guns.” (I have no idea what that means. If you figure it out, holler.)
Crimes Against Humanity
Also on the subject of the eeeevil military, Barsamian said “one of the greatest crimes in human history is the U.S. invasion of Iraq. They want us to forget this,” he said. “The fact that they’ve gotten away with this is a shame on all of us.” Oh, and Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, et.al., are “war criminals.”
How’s that going with Saint Hillary de Chappaqua? Askin’ for a friend.
“We have to be very strategic in voting,” he continued. “We need an inside/outside strategy.” He explained that the “inside” voting strategy related to electing like-minded individuals at the local level, such as city council. The outside strategy includes building a “genuine second party” that debunks “all these ideas” that the U.S. has some God-given right to spread freedom and democracy worldwide.
Because, according to Barsamian & Friends, every U.S. intervention anywhere operates on Auto-Evil. According to this guy, the U.S. is Evil Incarnate. An imperialistic, xenophobic, hegemonic, racist Evil Empire that runs on lies and propaganda, fueled by a “predatory” capitalist “regime” that’s the bane of humanity. Because the U.S. only has six percent of the world’s population but consumes fifty percent of the world’s resources, we “have to have military alliances to secure our access” to these resources.
Oddly, he didn’t mention U.S. productivity or the percentage of goods and services we provide to the world. Go figure.
Later, Barsamian said the U.S. is “making the world not safe for democracy but for lying” and that we’re “stealing the future of our young people.”
Someone forget to eat his Wheaties?
When asked about the homeless issue, he said, “It’s very disturbing that we have this problem and no sense of urgency in solving it.”
Not to worry. Barsamian has an answer: a money transfer from “the imperial machine regime” to “humanitarian” efforts to address homelessness. “A fraction of that money could go into solving the issue of homelessness. But for the capital economic system, it doesn’t generate enough profits.” Barsamian said the homeless are “victimized for being poor.”
He decried U.S. meddling in elections “in Greece, Italy and France” and said the Trump administration is hypocritical about lecturing other countries about “morality and international law” related to election meddling. “If you’re on the side of the Empire, you have a free pass when it comes to international law. The role that the U.S. plays globally is extremely deleterious,” he said.
Has he been to Pyongyang lately? Askin’ for another friend.
Not surprisingly, Barsamian isn’t a big fan of Trump’s plan to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He bashed Israeli colonies for “slicing and dicing” Palestine. He said the embassy move “completely demolished” the notion that the U.S. is an “honest broker” in the region.
Shortly after 8:00 p.m., Barsamian asked, “Are you still with me?” His interrogatory spurred enthusiastic responses in the affirmative. Apparently the Thursday night meeting of the Communist Party USA was running low on bingo tokens.
Without naming it specifically, Bramasiam also weighed in on DACA. He said, “I don’t want us to be a nation of sheep looking the other way when hundreds of thousands of young people are in danger of being deported.” And – shocker – he spoke favorably of the “Sanctuary City movement.” He did not mention Kate Steinle.
No fan of the recent “tax give-away,” Barsamiman said it will “blow a hole in the budget” and predicted “a major (stock market) crash.” The Republican Party used to be the party of fiscal responsibility, he said, drawing guffaws. “Now they’re like budget hawks. They’re running away from any sense of fiscal responsibility.”
“It is a scandal, a shame that we have the levels of poverty that we do have in this country.” (The good news: a Lefty is concerned about fiscal responsibility and spending other people’s money. This may be a first.)
Barsamian used the term “Empire” several times without defining it. He did it again as he wound down, saying,“This is what empires do. They lie. They have mechanisms in place to spread propaganda” that they’re on the side of the people when they’re really all about lining the pockets of the top one percent.
In the event that a bout of unmitigated capitalism broke out, attendees were reminded that white buckets were available for donations. Presumably this will stave off an imminent shortage of arugula.