by Glen Ford, published on Black Agenda Report, September 24, 2020
The New York Times and fellow corporate media discourage Americans from organizing against the rule of the rich by pretending that People Power is a fantasy.
“The ruling class is very much aware that the only force capable of countering the power of Capital is the Power of the People in motion.”
Like three card monte scammers everywhere, the oligarchs that rule the United States strive constantly to keep the populace guessing where the “money card” – in this case, the real power in society – is located. The whole point of the corporate scam is to dazzle and confuse the rest of us — the “marks” in this con game of corporate owned-and-operated, phony democracy – so that we never know who the “Powers-That-Be” really are. Thus, public anger is diffused, as the identities of the actual villains at the top of the wealth pyramid are lost in the shuffle of cards. Off with whose head?
Of course, the oligarchs themselves don’t stand in front of the portable card table on the street corner. They delegate that task to their shills and minions in media, universities and other corporate propaganda dispensing enterprises – like The New York Times, which earlier this month attempted to bamboozle the public (as Malcolm X would say) into believing that its list of “922 of the most powerful people in America” reflected the actual power relationships in the belly of the racist capitalist beast. For an extra spin of the wheel of confusion, the Times pretended that the racial makeup of its list of the “most powerful” was of paramount importance, as if individual ethnicity is the determining factor in how cogs in a corporate wheel operate. If only Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg were Black, then racial justice would prevail in the land. Capitalism, however, seeks only its own accumulation, not social justice.
“The Times pretended that the racial makeup of its list of the ‘most powerful’ was of paramount importance.”
The Times insisted that these 922 individuals are the most “powerful,” not the most “influential.” That’s an important distinction, since many voices can exert some kind of influence on the public – like Elvis Presley or James Brown, Muhammad Ali or Alex Rodriguez, Walter Conkrite or Rush Limbaugh – but real power in a capitalist society resides in the Lords of Capital, who shape the social, legal and economic structures to their own benefit. Therefore, we need to delete from the Times list of “most powerful” the entire cast of 100 senators, 431 congresspersons (four vacancies) and 50 governors, since all are creatures of the two corporate political parties that are wholly owned by their deep-pocket donors. All of these elected officials have some influence with the public, but their power to affect change is severely constrained by corporate-dominated party structures – as the “progressives” in the Democratic “Squad” can attest. Scratch 581 not-really-powerful people from the list. The behavior of the Congressional Black Caucus — 80 percent of whom voted for continued militarization of the police in 2014, while 75 percent opted to elevate cops to the status of “protected class” in 2018 – only makes sense when they are recognized as operatives of a corporate party, not “powerful” people in their own right, or as representatives of Black constituencies whom they refuse to serve.
“Real power in a capitalist society resides in the Lords of Capital.”
We must also delete the 29 police chiefs and 25 prosecutors from the Times list. These men and women are cogs in the wheels of the machinery of the world’s biggest police state. None of the top cops, including the 14 Black and Hispanic chiefs, have the power to dismantle the deeply embedded Mass Black Incarceration State, even if they wanted to. And although it’s good that two of the 29 big city prosecutors are considered “progressive” (Lawrence Krasner in Philadelphia and Chesa Boudin in San Francisco), their presence alone does not alter the nature of the racist and predatory U.S. State.
The same goes for all 24 top Trump administrators, including the three Black, Hispanic and Asian operatives, who are functionaries of a corporate party apparatus that is a tool of at least one wing of a feuding corporate ruling oligarchy. The exceptions would be administrators like Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, and a few others who are bonafide members of the billionaire ruling class. But most of the others, although relatively rich, made their bones by serving the ruling class, not as Lords of Capital. Any Democratic Administration contains a similar mix – like President Clinton’s Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin who accumulated a net worth of $100 million serving the banks in and out of public office, and Obama’s man at the Treasury, Timothy Franz Geithner, a younger servant of the banks (as Federal Reserve of New York CEO) whose lifetime cut of the corporate cake is a modest $2 million. Some servants of Power earn more than others, but the oligarchs have plenty of eager operatives to watch out for their interests on both sides of the duopoly.
“None of the top cops, including the 14 Black and Hispanic chiefs, have the power to dismantle the deeply embedded Mass Black Incarceration State.”
The same corporate duopoly that shapes the Congress fills the ranks of federal judges, including the U.S. Supreme Court, whether Black, white, Asian or Hispanic – so delete all nine SCOTUS justices from the power list. Their political leanings reflect differences within the ruling class, but all are products of the oligarchs’ entrenched and pervasive Power.
The Times includes among its tally of the “most powerful” eight members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the U.S. military, one of whom is Black. This is an easy delete: the military take orders from civilian officials chosen by the corporate duopoly parties. They are the quintessential servants and enforcers of global capitalist Power, nearly all of whom will directly serve the military industrial corporate complex on retirement. A few might head up universities, like the 25 Times-designated “most powerful” university chieftains — one Black among them. But these higher education executives serve Power, not students or communities (other than the “community” of donors). They are trusted operatives for their funders and corporate collaborators – which is why their institutions are among the biggest gentrifiers in the nation.
The directors of the country’s 15 largest news organizations are pure servants of power. All are identifiably allied with one or the other party (at this stage in the ruling class internecine split, most favor Democrats, but that will change somewhat once Trump is out of office), and all are pro-capital and dependent, directly or indirectly, on corporate ad dollars. The ten most-read magazine editors – as opposed to publishers – are also political operatives of the business end of their bosses’ enterprises.
“Higher education executives serve Power, not students or communities.”
Having winnowed out the servants, we are left with the Lords of Capital or their corporate chief executives in the flesh, wielding Power on behalf of their own class. That includes the 25 corporate CEOs on the Times list. Only one of them is Black and five are Asian, but the Times is quick to add that there are four Black chief executives heading up smaller Fortune 500 companies – as if that makes a huge difference in the wider societal scheme of things. The five book publishers on the Times list also deserve to be there, because they head up huge communications conglomerates, are directly answerable to the shareholder class, and likely have a large stake in stock, themselves. The same goes for the 14 CEOs of music conglomerates, the 25 people at top Hollywood studios, and a similar number at fashion corporations: Nike, Prada, H&M, etc. The 99 owners of professional baseball, football and basketball teams were all oligarchs before they bought into the franchises, or teamed up with the super-rich to buy in. The ethnicity of the owners doesn’t matter much — all soak the public for stadiums and other subsidies.
“The ethnicity of the owners doesn’t matter much.”
Stripped of the corporate go-fers and servants, the Times list of the “most powerful “shrinks from 922 to 168. But that’s deceptive, because the newspaper only showcased the top 25 corporate CEOs, thus giving the impression that the oligarchy’s share of Power in society is dwarfed by the combined weight of the top elected and appointed officials, cultural , military, and higher education leaders, and corporate magazine and news overseers – people that have influence among the population only as long as they keep their jobs but who are ultimately answerable to the Lords of Capital, the “most powerful” ruling class.
Conspicuously missing from the Times tally were leaders of organized labor who, at least nominally, speak for 16.4 million dues-paying union members. Equally telling was the absence of leaders of the broad-based “Black Lives Matter” movement that inspired over 20 million people to take to the streets in every nook and cranny of the country in June – possibly the biggest and most widespread wave of protests on U.S. soil, ever. Given the hundreds of millions of dollars the real ruling class has allocated to buy off organizations associated with the words “Black Lives Matter,” it appears the ruling class is very much aware that the only force capable of countering the power of Capital is the Power of the People in motion.
Like the three card monte hustler, the guardians of corporate hegemony at the New York Times seek to divert attention from the real root of the nation and world’s problems – the Dictatorship of (white) Capital – by narrowing the definition of “power” to what can be achieved by climbing the corporate (or corporate party) ladder. They want us to look for the “money card,” when what we really need is enough People Power to put a stop to rich men’s schemes, forever.
In 1977 Glen Ford co-launched, produced and hosted “America’s Black Forum” (ABF), the first nationally syndicated Black news interview program on commercial television. Ford co-founded BlackCommentator.com (BC) in 2002. The weekly journal quickly became the most influential Black political site on the Net. In October, 2006, Ford and the entire writing team left BC to launch BlackAgendaReport.com (BAR). BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford(at)BlackAgendaReport.com