Right way to power in US

11 September 2008
In the media
Published at
Tribune
Hijacking America: How the Religious and Secular Right Changed What Americans Think by Susan George SUSAN GEORGE pours a bucket of cold water over the “hang on ’til November” tendency who say the answer to the Iraq War and pre-emptive deterrence, Star Wars and tackling climate change is Barack Obama. There are sinister, well managed and wealthy forces that have seized control of America’s institutions, creating a cultural hegemony that even a radical president would have the utmost difficulty breaking. Yet recent policy shifts in the Obama camp show little evidence of any programme beyond “Better than Bush” (even if we’re rooting for him to win). Hijacking America makes the case that the US has moved away, almost unnoticed, from its enlightened heritage to become a society driven by an interlocking nexus of evangelical fundamentalism, neo-liberalism and big business self-interest. To do this they have bought the opinions they want by funding think tanks and universities, cowed and coerced those with different opinions into silence and, where necessary, on climate change for example, distorted science as viciously as the dossier on WMDs in Iraq. Schools increasingly teach the polite wing of creationism – intelligent design – although quite where the intelligence comes in when 99 per cent of species are extinct is a moot point. George W Bush says “the jury is still out on the theory of evolution” and 61 per cent of Americans believe in the literal truth of the Bible. Many true believers are among the 12 million Americans living below a poverty line set obscenely low, yet vote for those who kept the federal minimum wage static for a decade while slashing taxes so the richest 30,000 now have a higher income than the poorest 45 million. While what’s left of the trade union and labor movement obsesses with non-discrimination on racial and gender grounds when the single key barrier to success is being brought up in poverty. Internationally, the US spreads the gospel. The Africa Growth and Opportunity Act of 2000 gives 37 countries special access to American markets provided they show no “hostile intent” to US interests – and that includes voting the wrong way at the UN. Susan George has sounded a timely warning: the US intends to brook no rivals. As she says, Europe and China – I would add Japan – are the only islands of rationality in a world were religion is gaining the high ground. The US is, intellectually and politically, pulling away from Europe which is a clear and present danger to its continued global dominance (even if an admittedly less than perfect EU is currently too supine to launch any direct challenge). Why, then, isn’t she learning the lessons of her own book? Her (albeit small) contribution to the recent Irish no vote undermined the stronger EU required for future clashes of the transatlantic’s two civilizations. www.tribunemagazine.co.uk