Many of our political and media elite are wrong in the right way.
I mean that they are wrong but in a way that serves wealth and power. This dynamic is not a bug but a feature. Their job is to ensure the perpetuation of the status quo which rewards them so handsomely for their supposed incompetence. Toward this end they are not incompetent at all. They know exactly what they’re doing, and they’re doing it well.
Take leading war for empire cheerleader, Max Boot, for example. The former Project for the New American Century member Boot has been a enthusiastic cheerleader for some of the most catastrophically disastrous military interventions in living memory. Think Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, etc. Boot has also been the leading intellectual proponent of the American empire with his 2001 screed “The Case for American Empire“.
The fact that he’s been wrong about all of these conflicts matters not a whit. He simply advocates for the deployment of expensive military equipment consistently and reliably. The corporate media and their billionaire owners love that in a pundit.
Which brings us to the US military, that hasn’t won a war in forever. Read the Pentagon Papers from the Vietnam War era or the Afghanistan Papers recently revealed by the Washington Post. In both cases, prominent U.S. military leaders admitted to fundamental flaws in their war-making practices, including the lack of a coherent strategy, a thorough misunderstanding of the nature and skills of their enemies, and the total absence of any real progress in achieving victory, no matter the cost.
Why, then, does this losing persist? The answer would have to be because this country doesn’t hold its failing military leaders accountable. Instead, it applauds them and promotes them, rewarding them when they retire with six-figure pensions, often augmented by cushy jobs with major “defense” contractors. Meanwhile, these same weapons contractors and their wealthy stockholders enjoy record profits. Apparently it pays to lose.
We can’t forget about the elite neoliberal economists who were wrong about the dangers of financializing the US economy in the run up to the Wall Street Crash of 2008. However, they were wrong in the right way by supporting the banks and financial firms that have gone on to capture the lions share of the wealth since then. These same economists were also wrong about the universal benefits of globalization, where trade agreements such as GATT and the WTO actually allowed multinational corporations to engage in trans-border arbitrage of national laws and regulations intended to protect workers, consumers,
and the environment. No matter. These same neoliberal economists have kept their jobs and are still being rewarded for being wrong.
Ultimately, the problem with being wrong in the right way is that this routine can only go on for so long. As I’ve stated here numerous times, elite venality and corruption are indicative of the end of an empire. In this case the American one.
What makes our milieu particularly humorous is that our current crop of feral elite claim to be products of a meritocratic system, as in their claim to legitimacy stems from the claim that they are more educated and talented and therefore obviously should be in the top slots because they’ll perform so much better than everyone else.
Perhaps that’s the true value of an Ivy League education–how to be wrong in the right way?
Seriously, if we examine the list of failures it becomes hard not to question our so-called meritocratic system. Go down the list: There’s the fraudulent case for the invasion of Iraq, the botched response to Hurricane Katrina–“Heckuva job Brownie”, the post Watt Street Crash failure to reform our banking sector or jail the criminal banksters, the F-35, the inept roll-out of Obamacare and the hazardous healthcare system that lurks behind it, our student-impoverishing higher education system, etc.
And, that’s before we get to the latest elite failures in the wake of Hillary Clinton’s loss to Trump. I’ve come to believe that Russia-gate, Ukraine-gate and the impeachment fiasco were more the result of elite-liberal CYA as Trump perfidy.
According to the book ‘Shattered’, which describes the Clinton campaign, the decision to blame Russia for her loss was made a day after Trump’s victory: “That strategy had been set within twenty-four hours of her concession speech. Mook and Podesta assembled her communications team at the Brooklyn headquarters to engineer the case that the election wasn’t entirely on the up-and-up. For a couple of hours, with Shake Shack containers littering the room, they went over the script they would pitch to the press and the public. Already, Russian hacking was the centerpiece of the argument.”
Presently, there’s a push back from political and media elites, who decry the loss of faith in elite institutions and anger at the elites who control these institutions. They sneeringly refer to this as “populism” and want to blame it on Trump, or the “deplorable’s”, or anyone but themselves.
Not only is the anger at elites justified but there is a real danger in letting the rot deepen, breeding more cynicism and more alienation from even the general idea that we live in anything vaguely resembling a democracy.
Indeed, for the past four years, it has been clear that Sanders and Trump each represent a direct response to the severe (and warranted) disillusionment of average Americans, who have watched as America turns into a banana republic right before their eyes.
It’s been a heckuva job.