December 10, 2010

Wikileaks, Secrecy, Federalism, and Globalization (1 of 2)


The question of what the American Revolution was primarily about – ideals or governmental forms, politics or economics – was temporarily settled by the framers themselves in 1788 when they imposed it as a fact that the revolution had been fought to establish a strong central government which embodied in many details the exact details the revolution had claimed to find odious, and flouted in many ideals the exact ideals the revolution had claimed to embody.
Here at least there’s no question – the emphasis was on a form of government, a republic. They called it (and themselves) “federalist”, but even then that was clearly just a successful Orwellian terminological inversion. It was actually the framers and adherents of the new Constitution who were anti-federalist in normal terms, according to the standard usage of the time, while their opponents whom they successfully smeared as “anti-federalist” were at least arguing on behalf of something closer to true federalism, power much closer to its true source in the people. (I won’t claim they were all sincere.)
I think it’s moot to ponder how sincere the “federalists” were as champions of this central government. If the rise of the fossil fuel age and the industrial revolution really necessitated strong central governments, then perhaps this Constitution was one of the better (I don’t say “good”) attempts to harmonize that need with protecting the people’s rights and freedoms. At the same time, Hamilton and others seemed ardent to maximize power for its own sake, and displayed the standard elitist contempt right from the start. It’s beyond dispute that a major purpose for this power concentration was to use it aggressively for continental imperialism. The Federalist repeatedly cites this goal as a reason to concentrate federal power. What later came to be called “Manifest Destiny” was already a core element of the Founders’ ideology.
So what’s the specific link between imperialism and the republic form of government? In On Revolution (chapter 2, section 4) Hannah Arendt emphasizes how Founders of various stripes agreed that a desired goal was to encourage faction among the people in domestic matters while seeking a united front where it comes to foreign policy. She quotes Jefferson as wanting “to make us one nation as to foreign concerns, and keep us distinct in domestic ones”, and cites Madison’s Federalist #10, with its celebration of “the spirit of party and faction”, which of course was to be kept within the limits of representative government.
This formula would allegedly generate the maximum political freedom within the country compatible with a sufficiently strong projection in foreign policy. While this was already dubious in the 18th century, in modern times it appears in a sinister light. We see what it means today: The elites encourage and foment discord among the non-elites, while we must all submit to the astroturfed united front for whatever foreign policy our betters assure us is necessary, no matter how wasteful, deranged, and destructive to the very domestic freedom and prosperity for which the policy allegedly exists in the first place.
This puts in a different light Arendt’s contention, no doubt literally true, that ” the direction of the American Revolution remained committed to the foundation of freedom and the establishment of lasting institutions.” The question is begged more starkly than ever, Freedom for whom? To do what?
But this question was already being begged when Madison wrote numbers 10 and 51. It’s here that he notoriously posited that the greatest threat to social stability would be the rancor of the people, who to him were inherently a kind of proto-mob ready to realize their full mob potential at any moment, against the elites. It was explicit in Madison’s concept that political elites need to exist at all (only they, as elected representatives, know how to organize power and run a government). Implicit were such propositions as that economic elites need to exist at all; that their wealth and property concentrations are justified; that their own aggressive actions, which from the outside and from the receiving end look like depredations, are the natural way of the world and can’t be held accountable in any way (therefore if the people react with anger it’s really they who are the aggressors); that a foreign policy designed and dictated by those elites is to the benefit of “the country” as a whole. All this, so viciously and tiresomely familiar to us today, adds up to compel the strong presumption that another implication of Madison’s scheme was that the very “faction” celebrated by Madison and Hamilton and even Jefferson was always intended to be a tool of divide and rule.
However it was with the original intent, we now know it represents the essence of misdirection. For America, the rule has long been (if it wasn’t always) aggression against others and hijacking of public resources, which is always for the benefit of the elites only, and could only ever accidentally coincide with the interests of the people. The misdirection is meant to distract from this and help trump up the tawdry “united front”.
It’s this fraudulent pretension to a unified America in its foreign policy which Wikileaks has directly attacked with this latest document delivery. The leaks demonstrate in the clearest detail how the specially designated foreign policy elites are the same petty, incompetent crooks we’re so familiar with everywhere else, and how their concerns are the exact same combination of crime and meanness as we see everywhere else. But most importantly in assaulting their pseudo-monarchical secrecy prerogative, a key trapping in their very claim to authority and power, Wikileaks has dealt a blow to their ability to pseudo-legitimately maintain this prerogative. Once the people understand once and for all what a sham “foreign policy” is, in the same way they’ve come to understand the central “federal” government as a fraud and a parasite in domestic policy, we’ll finally be ready to relinquish it completely, all at once or in stages.
Here’s just a few things the leaks have proven:
Each leak is something which should never have been classified in the first place. It proves how promiscuously they’ve abused the classification privilege, as a matter of normal practice. We citizens already knew under Bush that this privilege needed to be rescinded. (Of course, we now know that most of the liberals were lying when they said that at the time.)
Each leak is proof that there’s no real “national security” at stake. Each proves further that the only secrets regard the power and crimes of the elites.
Every document is further proof they have no valid secrets. Each act of secrecy is an affront to democracy and a violation of the social contract.
As has already been proven with previous deliveries, the leaks don’t endanger the American people or our interests. On the contrary, to whatever extent the leaks hinder the corporate agenda, they serve the American interest. The empire itself, and the stateless corporations themselves, are contrary to the American interest, as history has proven over and over, every time. Empire serves no one but imperial elites, and harms everyone else. In 2008 that became brazen here in America.
We saw the NYT and the WaPo suppress leaked information which lessens the case for war with Iran, at the request of the administration. (We got it through the Guardian.) So there we see the scurrying cockroaches exposed in broad daylight – your leaders, your elites, your government, and your media, suppressing evidence against war.
Wikileaks has proven that elite secrecy has no right or reason to exist at all, and that transparency is a citizen right and imperative. With the evidence of the leaks, no one can any longer argue for secrecy other than as a brazen celebrant of domination for its own sake. No one can any longer cite “reasons of state”, or that the elites know pertinent facts at all, let alone pertinent facts which can’t safely be shared with the public. No one can any longer argue with a straight face that foreign policy has anything to do with “American interests”, or anything other than the same ugly, paltry elite interests.
We’ve now seen it all, and we know there’s no there there. From here on, we know secrecy is nothing but an anti-democratic ritual. We must be all the more relentless in asserting sunlight as a democratic ritual. No one can see the American flag when its hidden away in the dank and dark. Only the sun shining upon it renders it visible at all. So there’s the real essence of the symbol. Not the mere dyed fabric, but the light upon it. Darkness, secrecy, is the true mortal insult to the symbol, and to the essence.
We should also recognize how this bogus “foreign policy” astroturf, which we can trace to the original framing of the system, is by now completely entwined and indistinguishable from globalization. The slow but steady progress of over two hundred years has been for these elites, and their government, to extract the wealth of the land they did nothing to work for, abscond upward in power and “law” with it, and eventually detach government and law themselves from the land. The anti-sovereign globalization entities and agreements represent the full logic of the entire process. The WTO is a kind of one world super-constitution. All of this is rule by pure administrative decree, intended to extract all wealth and power from the land but leave behind the dead husk of government, law, and civil society. This husk is now meant to be just a weapon against the people, but nothing in itself. It’s a world-historical secession of the elites.
The neoliberal franchise is a sick joke. It’s the symbol and ritual of nothingness. And then this stateless, anti-sovereign body is to rule the disenfranchised people by direct bureaucratic tyranny, as the direct private agent of the corporations. That’s the goal of globalization.
When “federalism” was redefined and centralized upward in 1888, and organized to be focused on a false unified foreign policy, this secession process was set in motion. From there it’s been the same vector and the same logic which have advanced through every trial. Since the end of the Cold War, in the face of imminent Peak Oil, this false federalism is attempting its final upward redefinition. But this depends upon keeping the people gazing spellbound up into the fog, instead of seeing clearly how every truth is right there in front of us, easy to understand, and always at our own level, except where it’s actually below us.
There’s no reason at all for wealth and power to concentrate upward. The people are understanding this intuitively. We’ve always known to be suspicious of globalization, and now we know to reject it completely. This means we must also reject the globalizing elites. We should see their “foreignness” for what it is and reject it. They chose to abstract themselves from our land and wage war upon it and us. So while we reject their foreign policy front, we can accept that framing against themselves.
A good place to start is to actually see them for what they are, and insist upon this clarity at all times. We know they mean us nothing but harm. If we didn’t know before that every secret is kept not on our behalf but against us, we know it for a fact now. We can thank Wikileaks for the documentary proof of the illegitimacy of the elites’ foreign policy pretensions and alleged prerogatives.
And since the false federalism which has led us so far astray was already based upon this false foreign policy emphasis in its inception, we must take our hard-won knowledge and apply it back as we reconceive our democracy. This has been a case study in the falseness of representative pseudo-democracy itself, and proof of the need for and unique legitimacy of positive democracy.


  1. Obama can handle Wikileak CHANGE?
    We NEED transparency for our global society that we created an cannot control.To many crises.
    We’d never gone to Iraq if we read the cables first? Can gov. cut own flesh and downsize coldwar min. of foreign aff./CIA that cost as much as public health care. Wars ? Environment ? The public and is needed to get involved to let our global society survive.
    How can a few wise leaders alone solve complex global issues pending ?
    If democracy fails, the only solution is More democracy. Know It’s a hard path, but harder for our totalitarian enemies. E-vote(power), not E-commerce(money) that changes our world, stupid!

    Comment by citizen 5241131 — December 10, 2010 @ 9:26 am

  2. A very interesting piece. I happen to be in something of a “debate” with the proprietor of the Liminal Hack blog that involves the ideas of Alexander Hamilton. If you have a moment, and can be bothered, drop by and make a comment on the “King Canute” post.

    Comment by Edwardo — December 10, 2010 @ 9:36 am

    • Thanks, Edwardo. I’m not sure why I’d want to get in an argument with a usury hack, especially one with such a curious, counterfactual interpretation of events since 1970.

      But I do think your point about Hamilton is probably right. Once they were in office as members of the Washington administration, Hamilton’s ideological ally Madison was quickly repelled by how ruthless Hamilton wanted to be about putting their ideas into practice.

      If that’s true, though, I think the fault is more in Madison’s squeamishness than Hamilton’s extremism, since I think the ruthlessness is inherent in the ideology.

      Comment by Russ — December 10, 2010 @ 3:49 pm

  3. http://liminalhack.wordpress.com/

    Comment by Edwardo — December 10, 2010 @ 11:43 am

  4. All this history is easily explained by the fact that the British and French, at this time major powers compared to the USA were doing stuff hamilton’s way.

    Hamilton et al had little real choice if they wanted to maintain the independence of their new nation within the global game.

    Had they decided otherwise, what became of the indigenous peoples of North America when the colonists landed would have ended up becoming the fate of the colonists too.

    Of course you can make up fantasies that tell a different story if you like but there is zero historical precedent to suggest the fantasy would have come true.

    Comment by liminalhack — December 10, 2010 @ 7:02 pm

    • If you look at the third paragraph again you’ll see I granted the possibility that it was “necessary” in its time and place. My point today, as in my earlier posts on the “federalists”, is that even if anything ever were temporarily sound about their ideas, that’s no longer true.

      Although I’m also a skeptic about whether America ever needed to be part of that vicious “global game”. But the federalists were willing, aggressive imperialists right from the start.

      Comment by Russ — December 11, 2010 @ 1:51 am

      • “But the federalists were willing, aggressive imperialists right from the start.”

        Which is hardly surprising given the aggressive, imperialist nature of the initial colonists. Once one has appropriated the land of an entire people, and mostly exterminated them, whats wrong with a little federalism to cement those gains one might wonder.

        Comment by liminalhack — December 11, 2010 @ 4:59 am

      • In 1788 they were just getting started, and not just against those they considered savages. It was the latter reason in particular that federalism had to be subverted in favor of “federalism”.

        Comment by Russ — December 11, 2010 @ 10:28 am

  5. It’s nice to see Jefferson’s intentions being questioned. The last sixty years have seen a resurgence of lionizing the man, who was deeply flawed in so many ways. (The founders of neoliberalism were big pushers of the Jefferson myth.) Teddy Roosevelt had an extremely low opinion of Mr. Jefferson, and I think he’d feel the same way about Obama.

    Comment by Tao Jonesing — December 11, 2010 @ 3:48 pm

    • I’ve never lionized him, but for several reasons I do think he’s one of the better ones.

      Comment by Russ — December 11, 2010 @ 4:34 pm

      • I’m not a fan. I love what Jefferson wrote and said, but when I looked at what he actually did, I found him to be a conniving, petty tyrant in his own right.

        The biggest difference between Jefferson and Hamilton is that Jefferson was born to aristocracy. He had his, so all he really cared about was that nobody take it from him. He was a natural physiocrat in his economics.

        Hamilton was nouveau riche and wanted more (and to make sure nobody took what he gained away from him). This drew him to the mercantilism of the English tradition.

        Comment by Tao Jonesing — December 11, 2010 @ 4:49 pm

      • I know what you mean. I guess my own interest is in what can be salvaged for effective use going forward.

        You’re right, the most interesting thing about Jefferson is in his writings. So I’m content to let that be my “real” Jefferson, if I think it can help.

        That’s what Arendt tries to do in On Revolution. She traces a thread of Jefferson’s thought which was skeptical of the forms they had wrought, and in particular their will to freeze everything in place. Jefferson feared for the future of democratic participation under those circumstances, and thought about ways this circle could be squared.

        In Arendt’s depiction, this was something Jefferson worked out only partially, and mostly in private letters. But her implication is that we should continue that work.

        The basic idea is:

        1. We want real council democracy. (I.e., Arendt herself wanted that, thought it was the only real form of political freedom, and assumed her real readers would agree. That’s why they’re reading.)

        2. This is not alien to the thoughts of the founders. On the contrary, Jefferson at least thought about it and considered it important.

        3. So it’s worthwhile to cite Jefferson’s authority, both to prove to a discriminating audience that there’s an ideological lineage here, as well as for more normal political tactics (the old “citing the Founding Fathers”).

        Does your database support such a procedure?

        Comment by Russ — December 12, 2010 @ 4:34 am

      • To clarify that comment:

        If the American revolutionaries were actuated by the drive to establish political freedom (and their words claim they were; I think that was one of their motivations), then it follows that continuing this revolution must involve establishing the forms of freedom whatever they must be.

        By now we know this can only mean direct democracy, representative pseudo-democracy having proven a sham.

        So according to sound will-the-end-will-the-means method, it follows that to seek positive democracy is to follow in the revolutionary tradition.

        So we have that political reasoning. And then to supplement that we have the fact that Jefferson came to think along those specific lines, albeit only in a rudimentary way.

        Comment by Russ — December 12, 2010 @ 10:23 am

  6. Right. So I received The Email on Friday, the Doom Missive that forbids all employees at my private workplace from accessing any Wikileaks site on pain of firing, even in our own homes from our own computers. Apparently the corporation that owns the corporation for which I work is a contractor of the federal government. The OMB has promulgated a Stern Edict and the rat masters joyfully obey.

    To forbid me… in my own house… from going to a website?! Are you freaking kidding me? This ridiculous shallow farce of injustice, disgusting overreaction, calls to violence, all to protect information that should never have been hidden in the first place. So we see how deceitful, inept and conniving the government is when it acts in our name. The only damage this revelation has done is to the reputations of our rulers, which accounts for the Ayatollah-like response. (Though it’s obvious what they really fear — the more-than-hint Assange gave that he has bank documents on offer next. There’s the reason for the whip hand. He Must Be Destroyed.)

    The sheer maddening hypocrisy and petty-minded evil on display takes the breath away. How easily they single out the disobedient black sheep to be culled. Meanwhile the other sheep, the bought and paid for collaborator media who published the exact same documents remain in the herd, baa-ing placidly while the truth is led to slaughter.

    You can bet I won’t find an email in my inbox forbidding me to read the government’s favored propaganda organs, the NYTimes and the Washington Post.

    Comment by reslez — December 12, 2010 @ 7:35 am

    • That’s fucked up. They really are in a state of hysteria.

      Lieberman did threaten the NYT as well, though. We’ll see how much coverage the next delivery gets there.

      Comment by Russ — December 12, 2010 @ 10:13 am

  7. Thanks for posting this. I always look for your comments at Naked Capitalism, and I’ll look forward to Part 2 of this post.

    Here is what John Naughton had to say about the government reaction to Wikileaks: “What we are hearing from the enraged officialdom of our democracies is mostly the petulant screaming of emperors whose clothes have been shredded by the net”.

    And he goes on to write: “What WikiLeaks is really exposing is the extent to which the western democratic system has been hollowed out. In the last decade its political elites have been shown to be incompetent (Ireland, the U.S., and UK in not regulating banks); corrupt (all governments in relation to the arms trade); or recklessly militaristic (the U.S. and UK in Iraq). And yet nowhere have they been called to account in any effective way. Instead they have obfuscated, lied, or blustered their way through. And when, finally, the veil of secrecy is lifted, their reflex reaction is to kill the messenger.”

    Comment by Patrice — December 12, 2010 @ 9:59 am

    • Thanks, Patrice. Part 2 will be up sometime in the next few days.

      It sure looks like they’re far more upset at the revelations of their smallness and ineptitude than they were at the revelations of crimes like Collateral Murder.

      They thought that made them look kind of cool. (That’s the way chickenhawks are.) But this is like having a picture on the front page of yourself picking your nose.

      Comment by Russ — December 12, 2010 @ 10:18 am

  8. Hey Russ. Just wanted you to know I’m still reading and you still ROCK! Keep at it!

    Comment by Johnny D. — December 12, 2010 @ 1:52 pm

  9. PS. Time for some poetry! Too many intellectual posts in a row blow my addled mind.

    Comment by Johnny D. — December 12, 2010 @ 1:53 pm

    • Thanks, JD. I’m glad you’re still out there, and I hope things are going well.

      I have more poems (almost) ready to go. With so much to do, I haven’t been getting to those lately. But I will. I’m sure glad somebody likes them. 🙂

      Comment by Russ — December 12, 2010 @ 3:47 pm

  10. […] As discussed in part 1, the most important thing about Wikileaks is the simple democratic fact that we the people are the […]

    Pingback by Wikileaks, Hypocrisy, and Sunshine (2 of 2) « Volatility — December 13, 2010 @ 3:06 am

  11. […] […]

    Pingback by Corporations Are Anti-Sovereign « Volatility — March 10, 2011 @ 9:58 am

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