How To Inoculate Yourself From Establishment Bullshit

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In a recent interview with CBS This Morning host Gayle King, former First Lady Michelle Obama contrasted her husband’s presidency with that of his successor by claiming that unlike Trump, the Obama family had had “no scandal”.

“I had to sit in [Trump’s inauguration] audience, one of a handful of people of color and then listen to that speech, and all that I had sort of held onto for eight years, watching my husband get raked over the coals, feeling like we had to do everything perfectly, you know, no scandal,” Obama said.

“Yeah,” King responded.

“No nothing,” Obama said  “No nothing!”

“Yes. No scandal,” King said.

You hear this claim a lot from Democrats. There was a viral tweet with tens of thousands of shares shortly before the 2016 election which read, “8 years. No scandals. No mistresses. No impeachment hearings. Just class and grace, personified.” It’s a very common refrain which resurfaces in memes and tweets periodically, usually as criticisms of the sitting president.

Of course, the only reason anyone can attempt to claim that Barack Obama had “no scandals” is because in our bat shit crazy world, murdering, oppressing and exploiting large numbers of people isn’t considered scandalous.

In a sane, healthy world, a presidency like Obama’s would be looked upon with abject horror. Actually in a sane, healthy world a warmongering Wall Street crony like Obama would never have been elected in the first place, but if you were to show the members of a healthy, harmonious society the way that president used his power to do what he did to Libya and Syria, to continue and expand all of Bush’s most evil policies, to divert the push for economic justice into a neoliberal orgy for eight years, those people would recoil in absolute revulsion.

The only reason liberals think Obama had a low-key, drama-free presidency is because that presidency was normalized for them by the establishment narrative managers of the political/media class. If that class had been shrieking about Obama’s warmongering, surveillance expansion, persecution of whistleblowers, crony capitalism etc in the way that it’s been shrieking about Trump’s nonexistent Russia ties or his obnoxious tweets, these same people would see Obama as a horrible monster. But the propagandists didn’t do that, because it would hinder the cause of bloodthirsty imperialism abroad and crushing austerity at home.

The plutocrat-owned media and the plutocrat-owned politicians have the ability to control what people view as normal and what they view as weird, just by not reacting with alarm to occurrences they want normalized and reacting hysterically to occurrences they want rejected.

Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard’s fairly mild differences with US foreign policy orthodoxy, for example, are treated as so freakishly bizarre that you routinely see establishment pundits making fascinatingly absurd statements about her and getting away with it. The Hill‘s Reid Wilson posted a tweet that got thousands of likes and shares saying “Hot take/prediction: Tulsi Gabbard is going to endorse Trump in the end.” Center for American Progress President Neera Tanden shared Wilson’s tweet with the hysterical caption, “My prediction: Tulsi runs as third party Green candidate to help Trump win. I will take bets on this.” Again, thousands of likes and retweets.

Neither of these things are going to happen. Both Wilson and Tanden know they will never happen. Gabbard is a fairly conventional center-left Democrat who just wants to scale back US warmongering somewhat; she’s so well within the establishment-authorized Overton window that she just voted in favor of a House anti-BDS bill for Christ’s sake. But because she opposes a few aspects of the forever war and says it’s a good idea to communicate with world leaders who the US government doesn’t like, establishment attack dogs are acting like Hawaii’s second congressional district is being represented by some kind of eldritch tentacle beast from the Andromeda Galaxy.

I’m highlighting some of the more glaring recent examples here, but this sort of thing is happening all the time with varying degrees of subtlety. The public’s perceptions of events are continually being distorted by an establishment narrative management machine which controls what people view as normal and what they view as abnormal. You notice this very quickly when you start cultivating your news sense and paying attention to what news stories the mass media choose to give tons of coverage to and what stories they all but ignore; you notice almost immediately that there’s very little connection between how important a story is and how much news coverage it receives. The factor that determines the extent of coverage is the advancement of establishment interests and advertising revenue, in that order. Actual newsworthiness barely registers.

The way to rob the narrative managers of their ability to manipulate our sense of normalcy is to create an image of a sane and healthy world for ourselves to hold onto at all times, and to make that image into our own personal sense of what normal is. By having a vivid picture of what a sane and healthy world would look like in your mind, the false normal that the propagandists are trying to sell you will have no purchase.

Many people want to change the world, but hardly anyone ever sits down and creates a clear, positive image for themselves of a world in which all positive changes have been successfully put into full effect. Most people tend to just look at the current hot topic debates they’re seeing in the news over healthcare, immigration policies, gun control, austerity policies, abortion, LGBTQ issues, police brutality etc, and hope that those specific issues are resolved in their preferred way. But what if you zoomed out to a much bigger picture and imagined a healthy and harmonious world in which all our major problems have been resolved, and we’ve built something beautiful together? What would that be like?

I can’t envision such a world for you, because you and I will have different ideas about what a perfectly healthy and harmonious world looks like. I’m not trying to give you a specific image, I’m trying to get you to make a solid, lucid image of your own creation that can’t be replaced by the false normal the narrative managers are trying to implant in your mind day in and day out. Don’t hold back; go all the way and make the world as perfect as possible. All your ideas about what changes you might make are “realistic” or “unrealistic” are corrupted by propaganda anyway, so just create a perfect world.

This is worth setting aside an hour or two and investing some serious mental energy into. Once you’ve got a positive image of a healthy and harmonious world, and once you have a really clear image of what it would be like to live in that world, it’s kind of like you become someone from that imaginary world who stepped into this one and gets to see it for the first time. You get to see life through the eyes of someone for whom “normal” isn’t endless violence, oppression, exploitation and degradation, but for whom normal is the absence of those things. This makes all of the insanity in this world stand out like a black fly on a white sheet of paper, and gives you the ability to clearly see and describe precisely what needs to change about our situation here.

You’ve already had a taste of this if you’ve ever had the unfortunate experience of having to explain what war is to a small child. Nothing about war makes sense to a creature who is looking at this world with fresh eyes; the confusion and upset which immediately flashes over their face will make you feel like an idiot even if you oppose war, just for being a part of a world where grown-ups engage in such idiotic behavior. Someone who came into this world from a healthy and harmonious parallel earth would see it very much the same way.

Imagine if war weren’t normalized. Imagine if a US plane dropping a bomb on foreign soil and ripping human bodies to shreds was treated as the horrific event that it actually is and given weeks of extensive investigative coverage, instead of something that happens many times every single day without any mention at all. A pundit on Fox or MSNBC will tell you that you’re a delusional imbecile if you think this should cease immediately. Anyone who’s seeing our world with unindoctrinated eyes knows you’re a delusional imbecile if you don’t.

All the injustices we’re trained like dogs to see as normal are like this. Corruption. Plutocracy. Wage slavery. The way the homeless are treated. The fact that there are homeless at all. Police militarization. The drug war. Prisons for profit. Government surveillance. Propaganda. All of these things are inherently disgusting, but we lose our accurate sense of disgust because we’ve been tricked into accepting them as normal. So remove the scales from your eyes by creating a new normal for yourself.

  • Infarction

    Jeezus! Michelle Obama lives in her bubble of self-delusion as she and her snake-oil pitchman husband are enjoying the millions of dollars in payoffs that Barack connived as the twenty-first century version of Uncle Tom for the warmongers and Wall Street banksters.

    After running as a peace candidate who would deliver single-payer health care, this polished swindler expanded the Bush/Cheney wars for profit and oil, handed his pals in the insurance companies the gift of Obamacare. Meanwhile, he failed to bring the torturers to justice and expanded Bush’s murderous regime of drone killings and repression within the US and abroad. He bailed out the banksters with trillions of dollars as he allowed five million homeowners to be thrown out of their homes. After doing all this, this slithering dissembler opened up the oceans for expanded drilling as BP walked away from the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.


    CAPITALIST HEGEMONY- is the domination of a society by the ruling class who manipulate the beliefs, explanations, perceptions, values, and mores of the population—so that their imposed, ruling-class worldview becomes the accepted cultural norms which benefit only the ruling class by the threat of intervention, an implied means of power, rather than by direct military force. Direct force is reserved for countries abroad through invasion, occupation, and annexation. Domestically cultural hegemony is presented as the universally valid dominant ideology, which falsely justifies the social, political, and economic status quo as natural and inevitable, perpetual and beneficial for everyone. Cultural hegemony as a means of maintaining the capitalist state. The need for popular workers’ education to encourage development from the working class. The distinction between political society (the police, the army, legal system, etc.) which dominates directly and coercively, and civil society (the family, the education system, trade unions, etc.) where leadership is constituted through ideology or by means of informed or uninformed consent. Hegemonic dominance under capitalism ultimately relies on coercion, and in a “crisis of authority” the “masks of consent” slip away, revealing the fist of force.

  • il corvo

    How to inoculate yourself from establishment bullshit, begin by staying with the fact of an event rather than the words or spin of that event. Obama had all the words that allowed folks to believe in him as an authority rather than looking in a coherent way at what were the facts that he was referring to. Dropping 26,000 bombs on Syria can be made to sound like a shower of confetti rather than death, destruction and unbelievable suffering.

    Words remove us from the actuality and we are now taught to live in the words rather than in reality. Remember the menu is not the meal and the map is not the territory. When Obama sat down every Tuesday to formulate his kill list for the week, it tells you something about the type of person he is and also what we can begin to believe rather than looking directly at. You can not think and believe at the same time. Listen to folks and they will tell you what they believe about an event rather than looking objectively at the facts.

  • mwildfire

    One of her best–and thanks for posting, I wasn’t able to get directly into her site yesterday. Here’s the key sentence: The only reason liberals think Obama had a low-key, drama-free
    presidency is because that presidency was normalized for them by the
    establishment narrative managers of the political/media class.

  • rgaura

    It has degraded our culture, this narrative. One thing that drives me crazy about even very idealistic activists is this `beg for crumbs´ attitude. We are so propagandized that we have been stripped of dignity and self worth. The MIC/CIA/media empires have colluded with alphabet companies to manipulate society to an offensive degree and with degrading results. We need to pull the plug on media companies who operate as monopolies and promulgate lies. We own the airwaves, we should charge them for the use, and pull their charters when they do not serve the public interest. We can do better.

  • John Chadwick

    The most disgraceful, disgusting scandal of the Obama era was him being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize…

  • chetdude

    You could say the same about gwbush…

    His Administration was not marred by any “scandals”, as long as you ignore his $6 Trillion dirty little war on “terror(tm)”, Medicare Part “D”, tax cuts for the rich, etc.

  • chetdude

    That was the end of Obama for me…when he took the occasion of receiving the Nobel Peace Prize to make a mealy mouthed justification for his ‘surge’ (amplified WAR MAKING) in Afghanistan in his acceptance speech. I nearly ran off the f*cking road when I heard it.

    I knew we were totally f*cked for sure.

  • John Chadwick


  • Normlhippie

    All these things are Great ideas and ideals But that’s not what this article is all about.
    What the author is Attempting to do is normalize the madman that is currently in the white house by suggesting the last president was an evil person. The man that saved US from the worst recession that Ever was, with one exception. The man that saved the US auto industry, the economy and yes, the banks as well. He enabled health insurance For The masses, including Twenty Million that couldn’t get insurance otherwise.
    She is (falsely) stating the Steele dossier is fiction, trying to suggest djt isn’t corrupt.
    She is trying to do what she accuses others of, and trying to normalize a man that will never Be normal, MoscowDonnie.
    All the fiction in the World, no matter how subtle, isn’t enough to sway anyone aware of the Danger our democracy, our very country is in now.

  • Normlhippie

    People (not just liberals) know that Obama had a Great Eight years with no scandals because it’s true. If you are Trying to justify the madman you admire so, there is NO justification–can’t be done.
    You, and others of your ilk, are attempting to do what you accuse others of. Normalize this lunacy that is every day now. Anyone falling for that is easier led astray than his base, and I’m not sure that’s possible.

  • Normlhippie

    Hahaha, practice what you preach. All the facts are in Obama’s favor, not in your words.

  • Normlhippie

    Making the Economy actually work, creating Millions of jobs, saving the US auto industry, insuring 20 Million Americans that couldn’t get insurance otherwise (where Millions would have died) and giving everyone a tax stimulus check (that didn’t put US Two Trillion Dollars in debt) made Obama a bad president??? The vast Majority disagree with you and the other trolls, comrade.

  • mwildfire

    So you can read Caitlin Johnstone and shed everything she says like water off a duck, clinging to this belief about Obama, and relying on this weak supposition that anyone who points out the crimes and fallacies of the Obama administration must love Trump? I don’t believe it would be possible for me to have greater contempt for anyone than I do for Trump. And I liked the Cheney administration no better. That does NOT make Obama an angel! Sure, he was capable of keeping his hands off women other than his wife; he could speak not only in complete sentences but in an erudite, cultured manner; he rarely embarrassed this country in the way Bush did every week and Trump does daily. He could hardly have had a more different style from Trump. But so what? I don’t give a crap about these matters, when it comes to politicians in powerful positions–I care about POLICY, and Obama’s was not very different from Trump’s. If you are a white American, Obama was not so bad. If you were a citizen of Iraq, Iran, Palestine, Egypt, Libya, Venezuela, Sudan, Afghanistan, Syria and probably several others, he was a potential threat to your life. If you were that content white citizen, you might not know or care, but the constant surveillance that stepped up under W got much worse under Obama. When Obama had, in his first two years, both Houses of Congress in his party, he did nothing about climate change and offered a wak, overly complex, industry-pleasing mess for a healthcare solution. Just because the Republicans are even worse doesn’t make him a good President.

  • mwildfire

    I doubt it’s even a majority, let alone a vast majority, but it likely is something on the order of half. And they think Obama was pretty good because they get their information from corporate (“mainstream”) media.

  • mwildfire

    Come on, normlhippie–if you read CJ, you know she is NOT trying to make Trump look good. She is simply telling the truth about Obama–and by implication, the Deep State that makes administrations so much the same. One president’s failures do not make another president rise in the analysis. Neither you nor I knows much about what’s in the Steele dossier and can only guess whether it has any veracity. In fact, the insistyence of the Democrats and the media in harping on their essntially fake, trumped up (pun intended) Russiagate bullshit for over a year has distracted from attention to the incredible list of actual crimes and malfeasance of the Trump administration, and may well get the fascist toddler reelected–especially if the Democrats manage to put a milquetoast like Biden or Harris into the presidential slot.

  • Normlhippie

    Please learn American English if you expect to be taken seriously. Blimey

  • Normlhippie

    Why do you…people….always think your Opinion supersede Fact.
    And Obama was Proven to be great because of Facts.
    Facts, the same thing that determine tRump is Corrupt, and deAd last.
    The reason you disagree is because You choose to believe right wing Propaganda. What tRumpys spokeswoman refers to as Alternate facts. Doesnt work that way in Real life. Hopefully one day you will join US there..

  • mwildfire

    Normlhippie, shouting and covering your ears and eyes can’t change actual facts, like the crimes of the Obama team. Can’t you see that I, and Caitlin Johnstone in the original post, are among the least influenced by rightwing propaganda, that we agree that Trump and his team are an abomination and a threat…but, you see, that doesn’t somehow make Obama a better president. Better than Trump, or arguably Cheney, but that’s hardly a high bar.

  • mwildfire

    Now you’re getting desperate, claiming I don’t know American English because you can’t think of any substantive arguments. Name the place where I didn’t use American English (yeah, I did miss one typo, insistence)