America’s New Corporate Tyranny

Tablet:

Tracking potentially violent criminals and terrorists and foiling their plots is what the folks at the FBI, Homeland Security, NSA, and CIA, along with state and local police, are paid to do. Who needs the FBI when Spotify can save America from a fascist putsch?

The truth is that the corporate proscriptions, purges, and de-platformings were a brutal exercise of raw power by a few very rich people who shares jurisdiction over the citizens and residents of the United States under the corporate constitution.

Imagine that you are a resident in a low-population county in 1950. You run afoul of the small group of families who are effectively in charge. Your political and legal rights are unimpaired. You are free to vote and you are free to sue in municipal and county and state courts. The police treat you with unfailing courtesy and respect.

But strange things start to happen. The only newspaper in the county refuses to take ads for your business. The only bank in the county announces that it is closing your account and calling in your mortgage. Your car breaks down and the only garage and service shop in the county refuses to repair it. The only general store in the county refuses your patronage and the few restaurants in the county turn you away at the door. After you lose your business to the newspaper advertising boycott, you try to get a job, but discover that you have been blacklisted by all of the employers in the county. Nobody will hire you.

Are you free, in this scenario, just because there is no official interference with your voting rights and your civil rights? Private power is power, no less than government power. You can be immobilized, impoverished, humiliated, tormented, and perhaps driven to suicide by hostile businesses and banks in an otherwise functioning liberal democracy, just as surely as by the police or military in a dictatorship.

The United States in 2021 is a continental nation-state with nearly 330 million people. And yet its social system today, in disturbing respects, resembles that of my imaginary county in 1950. Instead of one general store, there is Amazon with its dominant online position. Instead of one local newspaper, there is Google, which serves as the 21st century version of the old Yellow Pages. Instead of one county bank, there are a handful of giant banks and credit card companies. As in the old Texas county, if one essential firm spurns you there may be no alternatives in that industry who want your business, as a practical matter. If one or all of these national monopolies and oligopolies turns against you, for whatever reason, your business or your reputation or your life can be destroyed.

Following the Capitol riot on January 6, the world was doubly shocked by the attack on the seat of American power and by the power of America’s irresponsible corporations, which are accountable to nobody except their shareholders. The president of the United States—who has been impeached for the second time by the House but has yet to be removed by the Senate or officially accused of any specific crimes in a court of law, much less convicted—was banned by numerous media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook and Spotify (he can’t even share his music lists!)

The purges and proscriptions have not been limited to Trump or to the criminals involved in the Capitol riot, or in planning others. The dragnet has been widened to include Republicans and conservatives in general, as well as figures on the dissident non-corporate left. Parler, a social media app favored by the right as an alternative to Twitter, was destroyed by Apple and Amazon. The baseball legend Curt Schilling claims that AIG Insurance cut off his family health plan because of his pro-Trump tweets.

Many tech tycoons and companies insist that their mass purge even of conservatives and Republicans was necessary to prevent fascists from organizing insurrections against the federal government. But tracking potentially violent criminals and terrorists and foiling their plots is what the folks at the FBI, Homeland Security, NSA, and CIA, along with state and local police, are paid to do. Who needs the FBI when Spotify can save America from a fascist putsch?

The truth is that the corporate proscriptions, purges, and de-platformings were a brutal exercise of raw power by a few very rich people who shares jurisdiction over the citizens and residents of the United States under the corporate constitution.

Today Americans live under two constitutions: The political constitution and the corporate constitution. The political constitution is functioning reasonably well. The corporate constitution, by comparison, is a lawless realm of out-of-control tyranny.

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