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UFPPC (www.ufppc.

org) Digging Deeper LXIV December 8,


2008, 7:00 p.m.
Michael Parenti, Contrary Notions: The Michael Parenti Reader (San Francisco:
City Lights, 2007).
Acknowledgments. Assistants, editor (vii). Ch. 9: Why the Corporate Rich Oppose
Environmentalism. Because “they experience a
Introduction. An assortment from “across forty years different class reality” (82; 90-97).
and covering a wide range of subjects”; texts have been
“revised, expanded, updated, and, I like to think, Ch. 10: Autos and Atoms. The automobile “is not a
improved” (x). Web page: www.michaelparenti.org. rational and survivable form of technology” (101; 97-101).
“Everything on the pages that follow is meant to cast light Neither is nuclear power (101-03).
on larger sets of social relations” (xi).
Ch. 11: What Is to Be Done? Subsidize “needy
I. THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS farmers” instead of agribusiness (103-04). Build mass
transit (104-05). Tax progressively (105). Make elections
Ch. 1: Media Moments. BBC report on asthma ignores fair (105-07). Create jobs programs (107-08). End the
economics (3-7). debt and deficit spending by taxing the rich (108). End
discrimination (108-09). Provide universal health care
Ch. 2: Liberal Media Yet to Be Found. That media are (109). Enforce fair labor laws and “[r]epeal all ‘free trade’
liberal is a myth (7-10). They are not free but rather “are agreements” (109-10). Reduce the defense budget by two
an inherent component of corporate America” (10). In thirds (110-11). End covert action, stop aiding repressive
2007, six corporations (Time Warner, General Electric, governments, and enforce the Freedom of Information Act
Viacom, Bertelsmann, Walt Disney, and News Corporation) (111). Open public air time to all political points of view
owned most media (10-11). Spectrum of opinion is “far (111-12). Reform Social Security by reducing the 12.2%
right to moderate center” (12-13). But the claim of liberal flat tax and raising the cap (112).
bias serves a purpose (13-14). Reporters self-censor (15-
16). “[R]eal liberalism and everything progressive have
been excluded from the picture” (17).
III. LIFESTYLES AND OTHER PEOPLE
Ch. 3: Methods of Media Manipulation. Suppression
by omission (18-19). Attack (19-20). Labeling (20-22). Ch. 12: Racist Rule, Then and Now. A history of
Taking as given (22-23). Face-value transmission (23-24). “ethnic violence” 117-18). Ida Wells-Barnett’s accounts of
Repetition and normalization (24-25). Slighting of content mob atrocities in New Orleans circa 1900 (118-20).
(25-26). False balancing (26-27). Avoiding follow-up (27). Progress has been made, but “terrible ethno-class
Framing (28). The social order is not described (29-30). inequalities and oppressions . . . still persist” (121; 120-
22). Racism depresses wages and serves class interests
Ch. 4: Objectivity and the Dominant Paradigm. (123-24).
Background assumptions condition perceptions (31-33).
People resist “contrary notions” (34; 33-36). If necessary, Ch. 13: Custom Against Women. Women are
events can be suppressed (37-39). Struggle is possible oppressed around the world (124-27). Abuse of women is
(39-40). widespread in the U.S. (127-29).

Ch. 5: Repression in Academia. Universities in the U.S. Ch. 14: Are Heterosexuals Worthy of Marriage?
have been run since the 1880s by boards whose members Heterosexuals have defiled marriage (129-36). Same-sex
are drawn from the corporate world (40-43). They are couples honor marriage (136-38).
“seldom . . . receptive” to antiwar and anticapitalist
Ch. 15: That’s Italian? Another Ethnic Stereotype.
thought (43-45). Orthodoxy is closely guarded (45-49).
The media display an ethnic bigotry toward Italians that is
Professionalism is used as an excuse to dismiss dissenters
also class bigotry(138-43).
(49-51). Radicalism causes problems for scholars (52-54).
Right-wing views are arrogantly maintained (54-58). IV. ROOTS
II. STEALING OUR BIRTHRIGHT Ch. 16: La Famiglia: An Ethno-Class Experience.
East Harlem, 1933 (149-50). Author’s grandmothers (150-
Ch. 6: The Stolen Presidential Elections. The 2000
52). Grandfathers, who came to the U.S. in 1887 & 1909
election (63-64). The 2004 election (64-70). Exit poll
(152-59). Father died at about age 73, mother 47, both
discrepancies (70-71). Touchscreen electronic voting
overworked by a patriarchal class society (159-61).
machines (71-74).
Coming to terms with roots (162-63).
Ch. 7: How the Free Market Killed New Orleans. In a
Ch. 17: Bread Story: The Blessings of Private
variety of ways, the free market was responsible for
Enterprise. Parenti’s father, having taken over his
thousands of deaths from Katrina in New Orleans (74-80).
uncle’s Italian bakery in 1956, was driven out of business
Offers of help from Cuba (which managed to survive a
by big companies with mediocre products in the 1970s
Category 5 hurricane in 2004 without losing one life) and
(164-68).
Venezuela refused (81-82).
Ch. 18: My Strange Values. Lack of interest in
Ch. 8: Conservative Judicial Activism. For most of its
products, money (except having enough “to get by”),
history, the Supreme Court “has engaged in the wildest
success, exercising authority over others (168-72).
conservative judicial activism in defense of privileged
Interested in the good of others (172-74).
groups” (83, emphasis in original; 83-90).
V. A GUIDE TO CONCEPTS AND ISMS
Ch. 19: Technology and Money: The Myth of democratic will?” (210). Earnings are expropriated from
Neutrality. They serve class interests because they give individuals as workers, consumers, taxpayers, and citizens
more power to the already powerful (177-81). (211-12). “Popular struggle in the United States ebbs and
flows but never ceases” (212). The recent reactionary
Ch. 20: False Consciousness. Defends the concept of agenda aspires to return to circa 1900 (213-15).
“false consciousness” (181-86). A “neutral” position about Corporate America controls the state, whose functions are
accepting people’s own judgment about their best providing national services like the military, roads, etc.,
interests “rests on an unrealistic and deliberately one- protecting “the moneyed and propertied interests from the
dimensional view of the way people arrive at their beliefs. have-nots,” “preventing the capitalist system from
It denies the incontrovertible fact that awareness about devouring itself,” and “enlisting the loyalty and support of
issues and events is often subject to control and the populace” (215-18). Fascism is avoided “by the fear
manipulation” (181). Acceptance of the existing order can that they might not get away with it, that the people and
come through “consensus satisfaction,” “apathy and lack the enlisted ranks of the armed forces would not go along”
of perception,” “discouragement and fear,” or “false (218). In addition, “the law, the bureaucracy, the political
consciousness” (182). There are two kinds of false parties, the legislators, the universities, the professions
consciousness: support of policy preferences not in their and the media” all fulfill “class-control functions” (219).
interest, and definition of interests in ways that work
against well-being (183). To deny “false consciousness” is Ch. 24: Socialism Today? There are many examples of
to deny that “people can be misled” (184-85). “The institutions showing that socialism can work (219-22).
reduction of interest to a subjective state of mind leads us Socialized economies can also fail (222-23). “What is
not to a more rigorous empiricism but to a tautology” needed to bring about fundamental change is a mass
(185). We can see examples of false consciousness all movement that can project both the desirability of an
around us (185-86). alternative system and the great necessity for change in a
social democratic direction” to replace “inequitable free-
Ch. 21: Left, Right, and the “Extreme Moderates.” market plutocracy” (223-24).
Parenti defines “the left” as “those individuals,
organizations, and governments that advocate equitable VI. MONEY, CLASS, AND CULTURE
redistributive policies benefiting the many and infringing
upon the privileged interests of the wealthy few” (186). Ch. 25: Capital and Labor, an Old Story. The “owning
Conservatives (186-89). Moderates or centrists (189-90). class” and the “employee class” (229-31). “Profit” is
Anti-communist left (“progressives, social democrats, money made when not working (231-32). Capital, which
democratic socialists, and issue-oriented Marxists”) (190- itself is produced by labor, “earns” a return by “annex[ing]
91). The terms lead to the false notion that “extremists” living labor” (232-34).
are evil and “moderates” are good (191-94).
Ch. 26: Wealth, Addiction, and Poverty. “[C]lass
Ch. 22: State vs. Government. “Government” is wealth creates poverty” (235; 234-35). Wealth is
“visible office holders,” while “state” is “the ultimate addictive for the wealthy (235-37). Because of instability,
coercive instrument of class power” (194). “Roughly growth is the best guarantee of survival for corporations
speaking, the difference between government and state is (237-38). The problem of overcapacity and how it is
the difference between the city council and the police, mitigated (238-41). Recessions are not bad experiences
between Congress and the armed forces” (194). Taking for the rich, who are able to “grow richer by grabbing a
government office does not guarantee control of the state still bigger slice of whatever exists” (241-42). Poverty is
(195). In capitalist countries, state power is often experienced inwardly as oppression (242-43).
“markedly undemocratic” (195-98). The executive
“usually stands closer to state functions than does the Ch. 27: Monopoly Culture and Social Legitimacy.
legislature” (198). The national security state is “nesting “The economically dominant class is also the politically
within the executive”; the executive is not allowed to stray dominant” (243). The U.S. Constitution was written with
from “its primary dedication—which is to advance the class domination in mind (243-44). Class domination
interests of corporate investors and protect the overall cannot be secure resting on state power alone; it requires
global capital accumulation process” (199-200). “Ultimate “a whole supporting network of doctrines, values, myths,
power . . . [rests] with the class for which [the CIA] works” and institutions that are not normally thought of as
(201). “A president working closely with the national political” (244). “[M]odern corporate capitalism is . . . an
security state and unequivocally for corporate hegemony entire social order” (244). Conventionally, the notion that
can operate outside the laws of democratic governance cultural hegemony is class-based is resisted, but it has
with impunity” (201; 201-02). Government scrutiny of the been evident since the late 19th century (244-47).
state is sometimes tolerated, as in Iran-Contra (202-03). Capitalist cultural dominance provides payoffs for
“Lawmakers who fail the state’s ideological test but who capitalists and a few “beneficial spinoffs” (247-48). The
occupy key legislative positions run certain risks,” as the internal contradictions of the “monopoly culture” can be
forced resignation of Speaker Jim Wright showed in the exploited to win reforms (249-50).
late 1980s (203-04).The national security state has largely Ch. 28: The Flight from Class. The concept of class is
removed itself from democratic oversight (204-05). But it systematically downplayed or discredited in dominant
has far-reaching influence in our lives (205-07). discourse, even on the left, and certainly in academia (e.g.
“Democracy uneasily rides the tiger of capitalism” (207). Chantal Mouffe) (250-59).
Ch. 23: Democracy vs. Capitalism. “It will disappoint
some people to hear this, but in fact there is no one grand,
secret, power elite governing this country” (207). Rather
there are interlocking “coteries of corporate and
governmental elites” (207). The U.S. features “state- VII. DOING THE WORLD
supported capitalism” (208, emphasis in original; 208-09).
Reforms have been achieved, but owe nothing to capitalist Ch. 29: Imperialism for Beginners. In the U.S., the
corporations (209-10). “How can we speak of the U.S. dominant view is that imperialism does not exist (263-65).
politico-economic system as being a product of the “Imperialism is older than capitalism” (265). Capitalism
benefits from imperialism (266-68). “The Third World is
rich. Only its people are poor,” following centuries of systematically slighted (337-38). Counter-hegemonic
expropriation achieved not by cultural superiority but by views have trouble even being published (338-41).
force (268-71). Colonizing countries imposed
“underdevelopment” (really overexploitation) on the Third Ch. 36: Fascism, the Real Story. Mainstream historians
World (271-75). Neo-imperialism foregoes territorial generally downplay fascism as “a key instrument for the
conquest, using debt and finance instead to create a preservation of plutocratic domination” (343; 341-43).
comprador class and client states (275-77). Italy (343-46). Germany (346-47). Support from business
was crucial (347-49). In power, it supported business
Ch. 30: The Free Market Paradise Liberates interests (349-52).
Communist Europe. Only after the end of the Cold War
was restoration of capitalism acknowledged as a U.S. Ch. 37: The Cold War Is an Old War. The Cold War was
foreign policy goal (278-79). It was accompanied by really an extension of the West’s class-based antagonism
deterioration of the social fabric (279-86). to the Soviet Union, which produced an invasion rarely
written about and much forgotten (352-59). The West has
Ch. 31: The Rational Destruction of Yugoslavia. The systematically misrepresented the Hitler-Stalin pact as an
goal of U.S. policy was to break up Yugoslavia (287-90). alliance, which it was not; the West did ally itself to Stalin,
Western media promoted U.S. intervention by but worked to undermine the Soviet Union’s interests and
misrepresenting civil war as genocide (290-301). pursued that policy after the War (359-66).
Ch. 32: To Kill Iraq. Pretexts were manufactured for war Ch. 38: The People as “Rabble” and “Mob.” The
on Iraq (301-04). Iraq’s real sin was to be a “competing portrait of the people in mainstream historians is rarely
regional power” (304-05). Its state-controlled economy positive (366-69). Their tastes are unfairly scorned (369-
was not to be tolerated (306-07). Oil (307-08). War 71). There is abundant evidence that they weren’t so bad
profiteering (308). Israeli influence (308-09). Convenient (371-78). This is good news, because “the people are all
domestically [this is the book’s only mention of 9/11] we have. Indeed, we ourselves are the people” (378).
(310). The capacity for suppressing dissent was expanded
(311). Bush’s policy in Iraq was not a miscalculation (311- Index. 19 pp.
12). [Notes after each section; about 17 pp. in all.]
Ch. 33: Good Things Happening in Venezuela. Hugo About the author. Michael Parenti has written twenty
Chavez is systematically maligned in U.S. media, belying books and hundreds of articles. An 8th edition of
the reality of his achievements (312-18). Democracy for the Few was published in 2007. Parenti
Ch. 34: A Word about Terrorists. Granted terrorists are describes himself as a “recovering academic” (404). He
dangerous fanatics, but their motives are principally defines himself not as a Marxist but as a “red-blooded
defensive and they are inspired by U.S. policies (318-23). American social scientist” (255). Web site:
www.michaelparenti.org. [Additional information. Born
VIII. THE REST IS HISTORY in 1933 to an Italian-American family; his father worked for
his brother’s bakery. Parenti regards racism as endemic,
Ch. 35: Dominant History. Dominant history is “the U.S. democracy largely illusory, and media as elitist, and
product of the prevailing institutions” (334; 331-37). The argues that the G.W. Bush administration has succeeded,
positive contributions of the people are ignored or not failed, in realizing its aims.]