The Fallacies Of Neoliberal Protest

| Strategize!

Above Photo: Participants marching in Black Lives Matter Rally at Cornell University, September 23, 2016 (Credit: Julia Cole Photography)

Sisters and brothers:

I’m delighted that you are mobilizing. Your demonstration reflects your recognition that the escalating crisis of racial terrorism requires a firm and uncompromising response.

Your protest in the face of daily atrocities is a sign of your humanity and your determination to live in peace, freedom, and dignity.

But as we demonstrate, we must take pains to avoid certain tactical and programmatic errors that often plague progressive protest in a neoliberal age.

What is neoliberalism?

Neoliberalism is a vicious but cunning form of capitalism. And like all varieties of capitalism, it rests on a foundation of white supremacy.

Neoliberalism’s goals are not merely privatization and the decimation of unions and the social safety net. It also seeks to manage the social order and ensure the continued political dominance of the ruling class by absorbing social threats.

Cornell BSU and the Black Lives Matter Rally, September 23, 2016 (Credit: Julia Cole Photography)

Cornell BSU and the Black Lives Matter Rally, September 23, 2016 (Credit: Julia Cole Photography)

Sisters and brothers, YOUR opposition to racist state terror is a major threat to the normal functioning (and thus the hegemony) of the neoliberal regime. To neutralize this threat and destabilize the most rebellious segments of the population, the corporate power structure aggressively propagates certain false assumptions among the public.

Let’s examine these fallacies:

Fallacy Number One: Dialogue and Awareness

The managers of the status quo hate resistance. So they try to guide any dissent that arises into “safe” channels. You will notice a proliferation of forums, discussions, and meetings organized by system administrators and devoted to “dialogue” and “awareness.” The premise of such efforts is that the problem of racial unrest stems from misunderstandings among rational and well-meaning parties. Thus communication and moral suasion—rather than pressure politics—is the answer.

Fallacy Number Two: The Appeal to Authority

In our technocratic society, we are conditioned to believe that experts and officeholders hold the answers to social problems. Supposedly these professionals are able to mediate between contending groups and interests. We are taught to endlessly petition established authorities for relief, never realizing that such gatekeepers are themselves instruments of the status quo.

Fallacy Number Three: The Myth of the Disembodied Voice

Part of capitalism’s response to grassroots opposition is to assure the distressed that their “voice” is heard. That the authorities who “hear” you also enable your brutalization is immaterial. The point is to convince you of your continued stake in the system. It is to guide you toward the politics of representation and away from the politics of resistance.

Of course, there are other fallacies employed by the oppressor to confuse the oppressed. The fallacy of inclusion v. transformation, for example. Or the fallacy of “diversity” v. genuine antiracism. We are taught to be patriotic, to be patient, to strive to embody the very values of peace and goodwill that this society defiles.

These and other myths only perpetuate the system. They leave intact our society’s basic power relations. And they cause us to police ourselves and to seek interpersonal reconciliation rather than confront structural racism and oppression.

One of the organizers of Cornell BSU’s Black Lives Matter Rally, September 23, 2016 (Credit: Julia Cole Photography)

One of the organizers of Cornell BSU’s Black Lives Matter Rally, September 23, 2016 (Credit: Julia Cole Photography)

Truth is, we don’t need “diversity” training. We don’t need focus groups. We don’t need consultants and experts. We don’t need the apparatus of our oppression—racial capitalism itself—to rationalize and regulate our dissent. The logic and techniques of the corporate world won’t end the slaughter of black people, or the dispossession and degradation of indigenous people, or the transformation of the entire Global South into a charred landscape of corpses and refugees.

We need an uncompromising, multiracial, grassroots movement against white supremacy, endless war, and vicious corporate capitalism. We need to build solidarity with the resistance in CharlotteStanding Rock, and Puerto Rico. We need to join the rebellions of workers and the colonized all over the world.

This is a human rights struggle. And it will be waged in the streets, not in boardrooms, the halls of Congress, or other strongholds of global capital.

  • BeUtahful

    Amen! A permitted protest is no protest!

  • Aquifer

    So, OK – on the one hand we are told that protesting against and pressuring our “representatives” is a waste of time, and on the other, that participating in the electoral process by which we choose our representatives is a waste of time, so what does that leave ….

    We have been told that those who make peaceful protest impossible will make violent protest inevitable …. but i would tweak this a bit – I suggest peaceful protest will not be made “impossible” in this country – there will always be “permitted” outlets – enough for us to blow off steam and give us our “rights”, even though restricted as to time and place – some, perhaps many, will be satisfied with these outlets, either to participate in, or to point out, “see, you can protest, what are you bitchin’ about?” Others, a few, will spend time and energy trying to point out that this is bs, as in this article ….that our “peaceful” participation in these activities has simply been rendered toothless, as indeed it has, so on to, to what, exactly – “massive demonstrations in the streets” – seriously? We have a population that won’t even “massively” demonstrate at the polls, for Pete’s sake, which brings me to …

    The denigration of the political process as a legitimate outlet … we are told, even by out “friends” that there is no “viable choice” at the polls, even though we say we want one, and that, regrettably, sigh, sigh, we have to pick a LOTE or screw it altogether, leaving it to those “mass demonstrations” which may, again regrettably, have to entail “blood in the streets” (though some actually seem eager for that) …. even though, even though there ARE choices, yes indeed, viable ones, at the polls – and all we have to do is pull those levers. But “hey”, you say, “the elections are rigged, so what’s the point?” But elections have been rigged as long as there have been elections. Sorry, what else is new – that’s one of the things we have to work on – but how – protesting, pressuring? Those same things we just said don’t work? So in the meantime – we can try to simply overwhelm them – at the polls … shucks, we haven’t rally tried that one, now have we …

    i am continually flummoxed by the way we are admonished to be courageous in the streets, but cowards at the polls ….

  • History301

    Exactly right. Hearing the logic behind LOTE is maddening and another argument to maintain what people claim to despise.I often try and explain to people a vote for HRC, or Trump is a vote against my interests and theirs, but I’m sure they will vote for more of the same anyway, if they vote at all, thereby maintaining the status quo they claim to want to change.
    Indeed, elections have been rigged since they began and so has the ruler’s ability to propagandize populations and indoctrinate them into whatever the system may be. Nationalism is like some form of illness people get early in life and if they cannot think their way of it, we get what we have today.
    I wonder how many actually ask the what if question? For example, what happens if Jill Stein won an overwhelming majority of the popular vote, and the Electoral College refused to follow the will of the people and install her as president, but instead installed the winner between the two major parties? Would that be evidence enough for people to realise we live in a totalitarian state? And if so, what would people do about it?
    Of course for something like this to happen, folks would have to put aside their divisions and overcome a lifetime of propaganda, which seems unlikely to happen anytime soon. However, poverty is a great teacher and the longer this system rules, the poorer people become, so unity may happen sooner, rather than later.

  • Aquifer

    Yes, the power of propaganda and the power given the media to spread it are enormous, formidable indeed – so we have to counter that propaganda and figure out how to get around that media, to be our own media, to spread that word …. We are told that “social media” is the way to do it – but as another piece on this site today gave an example of, as long as that “social media” is owned and in the control of just another big corporation, it can censor and stifle protest as well – I am an old fogy, but i know what can be done with old fashioned stuff like newsletters and shoeleather – Tom Paine fueled a revolution with a hand printing press and his stuff was posted on trees, or delivered on horseback, for Pete’s sake … and that can be done all over, including to and for those who don’t have internet access, and that is a lot of folks, especially those that we need to reach …

    Yes again – I have been posing variations of the theme of that question as well – what happens if she got a plurality – and the EC said NO – why the hell don’t we find out, we have nothing to lose and so much to gain ….. Or what happens if she got elected, with yet a “hostile Congress” – that in itself would be a “political revolution” – those Congress critters would be having heart attacks and coloring their shorts – they would know that we the people were finally prepared to do what they were so confident we never would, confident to the point that they felt free to keep “throwing us under the bus” – we were prepared to “throw the bums out” – and they would know they were next if they didn’t play ball … Hey, why don’t we find out, we have nothing to lose and everything to gain …

    Thanx! – I like your “What IF” frame – it’s a good one and one we, IMO, need to use, a lot …. And then follow up answering the inevitable “downer” responses with “Let’s try it and see, we have nothing to lose and everything to gain ….. 🙂

  • jemcgloin

    Neoliberaism is not a tool of White Supremacy. White Supremacy is a tool of Neoliberals. The goal of the billionaires is not to have the white race living in luxury while everyone else is a debt slave. That would mean they would have to share their wealth with millions of white people.
    The goal of the billionaires is to control all of the wealth and all of the power. That is what they care about. Jamie Dimon would much rather have dinner with Obama, which he does often, than have dinner with Joe the Plumber, because Obama has power and Joe doesn’t.He would rather have dinner with the leader of a Mexican Drug Cartel our a Saudi Prince. The color he cares about is green.
    White Supremacy is just one part of their divide and conquer strategy, that lets them control half of the world’s wealth, while we bicker for scraps. White Supremacy is a scam that keeps dumb white people thinking that the Trumps of the world’s identify with them in some way. Meanwhile Trump couldn’t even bring himself to shake hands with any of those white people after the debate.
    Yes we need to unify the races and the middle class with the poor, etc, so we can say, no more. You can no longer steal our productivity and hide it in offshore bank accounts.
    Yes white supremacy is a serious problem, but if you do not see that it is a technique and not the goal, you will not fight it successfully.
    White people that fall for this nonsense are not the real enemy. They are a bunch of dumb suckers being victimized by the same enemy. They are hurting and they can be turned from pawns on their side to allies if they can see the truth of their position.

  • mwildfire

    Here you go, an inevitable downer response. You are ignoring two things, two reasons Jill cannot possibly win. One is that the ruling class owns and controls the corporate media and this is still where most people get their opinions. This is of overwhelming importance. The other is that it really doesn’t matter what percentage of the votes Jill gets, or even Trump; what matters is what the media tells us the electronic counting machines said about who won. That will be Clinton, no matter how many people vote or for whom. Certainly I will go vote for Jill Stein–why not, it won’t take an hour (I’m white and live in a rural area). I think it’s interesting that apparently recently the corporate media have been running stories about how easy it is to hack elections. Such a discussion was taboo after the vote in Ohio was klepted for Bush in 2004, for example–anyone mentioning the evidence that it could be, would be, and had been stolen was greeted with winks and remarks about tin foil hats. So why are they deliberately bringing up the possibility now? Maybe because Trump has gone off script and they’re afraid he’ll try to actually win, or that his supporters will counter-hack the results?

  • Aquifer

    As far as owning the corp media – so, as i have said before, we have to be our own media – door to door newsletters on a sustained basis, educating folks ..
    As for hacking the machines – yeah, as i said rigging the elections has been going on forever, this is just the modern form ,,,,

    They are bringing up “the possibility” now, IMO, for precisely the same reason you did, for precisely the same reason they rolled out the “can’t win” and “spoiler” nonsense – to discourage folks from supporting or voting for “marginal” candidates – but those two memes are losing their luster they didn’t work so well with Sanders supporters – they ignored them, busted their buns, and voted for him anyway – so now they emphasize the “other reason” Stein can’t win – which is entirely more “rational” – the machines are rigged ..

    But if you will notice, that reason is never used as an excuse why a D or R “can’t win”, though each party tosses that rigging charge at the other – apparently that argument is never seriously considered re D/Rs, because we still get all these discussions about whether Trump or Clinton will win, about whose policies are better, even about who is the lesser evil; there would be no reason to try to get folks to vote for one or the other, no need to spend all that money on advertising, no need to buy the media, etc. – all would be rendered moot if “the machines” were in charge – the only relevant consideration would be which political machine is “in charge” of the voting machines …. the only time you ever hear this “machines are rigged” bit as “proof” that someone “can’t win” is when it is applied to a 3rd party – think about that ….

  • Aquifer

    “The choice of Clinton/Trump is like being asked to choose being shot or hanged. Frankly, I’d prefer to be set free!”

    That is a good one – i use the “we are told the only choices we have are strychnine and cyanide, when we could choose vegetable juice!” But i like yours better! …. 🙂

  • mwildfire

    Well, I think two things you say here are not true. Early on “for the same reason you did”, i.e. to discourage people from voting. I don’t discourage people from voting, just from thinking that might change anything. We can’t get change as long as we rely on the rigged system. And secondly, that talk of possible hacking on the part of “mainstream” (corporate) media is only used in reference to third parties–in fact the only references I’ve seen have not applied the issue to any candidates or parties (admittedly, I am relying on second-hand references as I don’t watch TV or listen to the radio). But the scenario you describe in which it all comes down to which candidate or party has the better hacker, rendering voters irrelevant to the process, is exactly why it surprises me to see this mentioned by corporate media–the whole point of having the fkng elections is to cover the frontman (frontwoman in this case) with legitimacy, to keep dissent at low levels. If they admit that democracy is fake…

  • Jon

    Satire is one of our best friends!

  • Aquifer

    Ah, so saying that voting won’t change anything is not going to discourage folks from voting – so why does such a large % of the population not vote already – hmm, could it be because they figure why bother because “it won’t change anything” ….

    As i said, that rigging of machines bit is routinely brought up in a discussion of why 3rd parties “can’t win” but never, to my knowledge, used as a reason why any D/R “can’t win” …. have you seen any such suggestion, except for perhaps re an individual, who is then promptly labeled a “sore loser”
    Indeed, the need to appear legitimate is a “prime directive” for TPTB – and this rigging idea, though it may be true, is never raised in any “serious manner” by the MSM other than at election time and then it is only a blip on the screen – the D/Rs like “rigging” in general, reports of its use only discourage 3rd party voters, but not their own ,,,,

  • DHFabian

    OK. Polish up the old political rhetoric, and disregard any facts that don’t fit the picture we have painted. Most violence against black people is committed by other black people, most violence against white people is committed by white people, etc., and much of the violence is driven by the drug trade. The more heavily populated an area, the more violence. Many cops are black, and according to the statistics, the majority of those killed by police are white.

    The thread that runs through all of this is our poverty crisis. Even liberals no longer recognize those who are worse off than minimum wage workers, as existing at all. Not everyone can work (health, etc.) and there aren’t jobs for all. The US shipped out a huge number of jobs since the 1980s, ended actual welfare in the 1990s. Real poverty doesn’t fit the picture we have painted, so we ignore it.

  • DHFabian

    Exactly! Neoliberalism is, above all, an economic philosophy. Americans began embracing it during the Reagan years, and by this point, even liberals have adopted much of the neoliberal agenda (seen in the years of promoting middle class elitism).

    White supremacy is a myth to which some cling, and bigotry exists among people of all races. Societies are dominated by whichever race is the majority and/or has the most economic power. In the US, human worth itself is determined by economic/class status, and we’re 20 years deep into a hellish anti-poor era. The majority of poor are white. Note that it has virtually been open season on our homeless poor for years, as they’ve been beaten, even killed, by police and citizens alike. These tragedies don’t result in marches for justice, weeks of liberal media outrage. “Just some homeless bum.” Many cops are black, and as the statistics show, the majority of those killed by police are white, but that doesn’t fit the current story of choice.

    We’re faced with very complex, often inter-related issues, but this is an era of simple.

  • DHFabian

    The last time the “masses” organized (Occupy) it was quickly redefined — by Dem pols, liberal media, and some participants themselves — as a Middle Class Movement, i.e., a pep rally for the better off alone. The rest of us — the poor, and those who get why it matters –finally gave up.

    If we had a revolution, who would fight whom? We’re rich vs. middle class vs. poor, further divided by race, all pitted against each other. The middle class certainly isn’t going to rise up against corporate powers (their employers).

    As for the election: The Dem voting base had long consisted of the poor and middle class, workers and the jobless, for the common good. The Clinton wing split this base wide apart. Many voted for Obama on the chance that he could launch a legit public discussion about our poverty crisis. He raised the issue a few times, liberals and middle classers aren’t interested, Dems in Congress only worsened conditions for many. Then Democrats picked the most anti-poor, anti-New Deal candidate available.

  • DHFabian

    The US itself is an economic entity, and we determine human worth on the basis of economic status. Only a small slice of the population is interested in nationalism.

    We’ve already had “highly questionable” election results, most notably that of George Bush Jr. People grumble, some even stamp their feet, and we all adjust. We’d love to have a revolution, but can’t get enough time off from work. And we can’t risk losing our jobs, since there’s nothing to fall back on.

  • DHFabian

    And the old “underground” newspapers and street sheets. Realistically, what has choked out any chance of a People’s Movement is the fact that those who united during similar eras in the past, have successfully been pitted against each other by class and race.

    What would a legitimate People’s Agenda even look like, given the realities of today?

  • DHFabian

    Who knows? Trump/Clinton have strikingly similar ideologies, so most of us will lose regardless. The only thing that could save our collective butts is a massive People’s movement that forces Congress to listen, to represent the “masses.” I don’t see how that’s possible. Years of work went into dividing and subdividing the masses by class and race, pitting us against each other.

  • DHFabian

    Don’t forget the ever popular “massive voter fraud” issue.

  • DHFabian

    People need to have someone to vote FOR. Most take it for granted that only a D or R can win, since they have a stranglehold on our political system.

    How about the old “Vote for the Democrat and we’ll work to pull him/her to left afterwards”? It hasn’t worked yet. In fact, each time since the 1980s that the Dem Party has stepped to the right, liberals leaned to the right as well.

    So then, what’s the People’s agenda? What do the people actually want, and who actually matters today?

  • DHFabian

    Does protest exist if media ignore it? We hear almost nothing about protests on the news. Even liberal media did a good job of ignoring the 2016 Poor People’s Campaign.

    Makes sense. The right wing, back in the 1960s/’70s, said that if media ignored protests, people would stop protesting. They were right. What’s the point, if no one hears you?

  • Aquifer

    Look at the Stein platform …

  • Aquifer

    Doesn’t take long to vote …

  • Jon

    Fabian, You keep saying the same thing–dozens of times. Can’t you be a bit more original in your thinking and not always negative? People need to be inspired, not have a wet blanket!

  • Jon

    Fabian, In response to
    “What would a legitimate People’s Agenda even look like, given the realities of today?”
    Pay attention to Jill’s campaign or go to and READ what the platform of the Green Party actually says. If you don’t look, you will never find the answer to your oft-asked question!!

  • jemcgloin

    I’m glad we agree on something Fabian. However, I do believe that although most police are not inherently racist, police departments are institutionally racist, because it helps to distract the workers and unemployed from the real enemy, and furthers the divide and conquer strategy of the billionaires.
    As long as people are protesting the police, they are not protesting the economic peer structure.
    I support people protesting racist institutions, but they should be talking about the reason the institutions are racist.