An essential aspect of what people call the “deep” state is its continuity despite formal (or nominal) changes of regime. We might call this the “real” state, whose continuity and impunity is derived from its masters: the capitalist ruling class.
That class, and the system it has created, is in general crisis, the result of a cascade of contradictions it can no longer “export,” having spread its structural disease of infirmity across the globe. A consensus has emerged among international capital that there is no escape from the crisis except to quickly complete the task of global conquest, and to accelerate the financialization of all aspects of life, including in the “home” countries of imperialism. The rulers believe — with objective justification – that they are in a race against the clock, and that Russia’s resistance to the massive imperial offensive begun in 2011 could cause the clock to run out, and the ultimate death of their class.
Their fears were compounded by the wholly unexpected capture of one wing of the electoral duopoly by the billionaire real estate developer, Donald Trump, who is personally rooted in a political current of domestic capital that is fixated on using the state to inflate land values and related assets. In a profoundly racist society such as the United States, the manipulation of land values is inextricably tied to race: it requires the ability to control and remove less desirable populations from real estate that is to be “developed,” and to enlist whites in a general “uplift” project (“Make America Great Again”) whose subtext is always racial.
This is the world we enter every day, on our laptops and our smartphones. It has become a battleground where the ambitions of nation states and ideologues are being fought – using us. We are the bounty: our social media feeds; our conversations; our hearts and minds. Our votes. Bots influence trending topics and trending topics have a powerful effect on algorithms, Woolley, explains, on Twitter, on Google, on Facebook. Know how to manipulate information structure and you can manipulate reality.
We’re not quite in the alternative reality where the actual news has become “FAKE news!!!” But we’re almost there. Out on Twitter, the new transnational battleground for the future, someone I follow tweets a quote by Marshall McLuhan, the great information theorist of the 60s. “World War III will be a guerrilla information war,” it says. “With no divisions between military and civilian participation.”
To explore how we can respond meaningfully to this moment of crisis, we will draw on this and previous work to provide a snapshot diagnosing the fundamental contours of the crisis. This will provide the groundwork to see the crisis for what it is: an act of war on Planet Earth, on all of life, on all of us. Seeing the crisis for what it is, clarifies in a way that is often eclipsed in the everyday what’s really at stake. And this in turn opens us to seeing the possibilities for action, by unmasking the most fundamental obstacle to change: the illusion of our powerlessness, and the mechanisms by which this illusion is perpetuated to ensure the peoples’ silence, fear, apathy and disunity.