Anything But the Obvious

I’m on the mailing list for Adbusters, an anti-consumerism magazine that began promisingly but has become a dead end, a monthly exercise in design fetishism that embodies the advertising it pretends to critique.

They sent out an email today that concluded with the following very sad paragraph:

“It strikes us that this is the same personal dilemma that each of us struggle with: deep down in our guts we know that the world demands a radical transformation of the global system. And yet, it seems impossible, perhaps even foolhardy, to topple consumerism and corporate capitalism by confronting it head on. Is there a way out of this impasse? What should we do this November?”

Behold the liberal mentality: we need revolution. Can we do something besides revolution?

Like chemotherapy, revolution is hard. It doesn’t usually work. Sometimes it makes things worse. But if you have certain kinds of cancer, there’s no way around it.

The U.S. has a cancer. So does the planet. That cancer is capitalism. It’s killing us. It has to go.

Whether impossible or foolhardy, there is no way to destroy the capitalist system without attacking it directly, by revolution. Those who are tired of trying to think their way around the obvious truth should read my Anti-American Manifesto, which came out a few days ago.

What should we “do” this November? Certainly we should not vote. Voting isn’t doing anything. We should revolt. But why wait until November?

Ted Rall

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About Ted Rall

Ted Rall is the political cartoonist at, editor-in-chief of, a graphic novelist and author of many books of art and prose, and an occasional war correspondent. He is the author of the biography "Trump," to be published in July 2016.

29 thoughts on “Anything But the Obvious

  1. Angelo, where do Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan fit in your neat categorization? BTW, we do have universal healthcare and education here in Brazil (only trouble is, they suck) and we get a month’s vacation a year, so put that in your proverbial pipe and smoke it.

    Exceptions to the rule don’t improve the general case. They are just that. Exceptions.
    Do you get a month’s paid vacation? I’ll gladly put that in my pipe, and I hope you will too! Afterall, well rested workers are more productive.

  2. Ted, From the forest itself comes the handle for the axe…..the revolution isn’t coming, get over it. I could go into a diatribe about why, but I already have, and nobody listens…especially not you. You just want excitement so you can sit and write about it.

  3. The people maligning voting still haven’t addressed the issue of third parties that I argued for in my first post. A claim is that voting would be illegal if it could help. I would argue that they don’t need to make it illegal because everyone who has realized the two major parties are a farce is too busy feeling smug about not voting instead of working with third party solutions as evidenced on this board here. Why go through all that work to make voting illegal when your surfs have decided to disparage of it and then neglect it themselves; that would just be needless extra work. As I said in my first post, this type of thing is all about perception, and here the perception of defeat is so effective that the powers that be fully know that trying something else could result in less control after investing much more work.

    @ bucephalus again, you are thinking of full fledged communism. As I mentioned above socialized societies are often designed to still have a free market. There are degrees of socialization. Most socialized societies that are not shooting for full fledged communism have free enough markets that people can be hired and fired from fairly large corporations which are also free to exist such as say Ikea or Sabb. Both of these companies for the record, are highly regulated in terms of what they must pay in salary and benefits as well as too many other things to list here that stretch from zoning through environmental impact and beyond. As before, this is all that is needed to constitute a socialized society. People can have different wages, and get fired and make less in a socialized society. Again, there is a difference between a socialized society and complete communism.

  4. Yes, […], it is also the case that modern-day real-world socialism doesn’t mean that everything can (or should) be owned by government.

    Well, you have not been reading the same posts that I read by Ted, Stephanie and Susan, have you? Cause that’s pretty much what they advocate.
    And, yes, real world socialism has always been about jackbooted thugs. Let me repeat one more time: the Sweden of Saab, Ericsson, Electrolux, H&M and IKEA, which just re-elected a centre-right coalition, is not a socialist economy, even though it has a “generous” socialist welfare program. If you get fired in Sweden, you still see a drop in your cash flow, and you cannot afford a nice brand new car, a fancy restaurant or the latest technology toys, all of which the Swedish love as much as the Americans, the Mexican or the Japanese.
    The Cubans would too, if only they could.

  5. bucephalus writes:

    Talk about imaginary, Mr Mind-reader. For what it’s worth, no institution is more antagonistic to capitalism than slavery.

    Yes, much as modern-day real-world capitalism doesn’t mean that everything can (or should) be owned by a private individual, it is also the case that modern-day real-world socialism doesn’t mean that everything can (or should) be owned by government. The sooner we can dispense with phrases like “capitalism implies slavery” and “socialism implies jack-booted thugs” the sooner we can get to some real discussion.

  6. Said Lee:
    Except for bucephalus and demons he imagines he is battling, no one wants capitalism to dominate all other ideals (bring back slavery, anyone?)

    Talk about imaginary, Mr Mind-reader. For what it’s worth, no institution is more antagonistic to capitalism (a term coined by Marx, incidentally – I don’t quite subscribe to a free market arrangement being called an “ism”) than slavery. You and I have a very different notion of kindness: to me it is one giving his own money, time and/or labour to help the needy. It is not extorting from everyone and letting it trickle down to the needy (who soon become addled) through a dense sift of bureaucracy.

    To all folks who still idealize the ballot box, it is not a contract because no court will ever bind the politician to his word. The men with the guns work for their sake, not yours. Stephanie and I agree that the vote is a mere trick the politicians use to bait the mundanes. Where we differ is in her aspiration for widespread “democracy”, which, I believe, is code for the majority twisting the arm of the minority, the harder, the better.

    Angelo, where do Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan fit in your neat categorization? BTW, we do have universal healthcare and education here in Brazil (only trouble is, they suck) and we get a month’s vacation a year, so put that in your proverbial pipe and smoke it.

    Michael, if Fred Reed doesn’t fit nicely in your left/right paradigm it’s probably because he’s neither. He’s just great.

  7. Back during the Vietnam war, we said, ‘If voting could make any difference, it would be illegal.’

    There is a strange blogger named Fred Reed whose position on the left/right scale I cannot determine. But he’s agin’ the wars.

    In the ’30s, 25% of men were jobless. In ’42, they finally got jobs fighting Tojo and Hitler.

    In ’46, many lost their jobs, but got re-hired in ’47 to fight Stalin.

    In ’07, many lost their jobs, and are hoping to get re-hired to fight Islam, a ‘religion of peace.’

    Is there an answer????

  8. US395, please provide me with one example of a “leftist” who supports Obama.

    and now…

    the spectrum of development

    Horn of Africa, Central America, the Stans
    low life expectancy,
    low quality of life,
    visible, strong oligarchy

    US , Chile, Brazil
    ok / good life expectancy,
    low quality of life,
    hidden, strong Oligarchy
    “the basics” are unaffordable,
    Little mandatory paid leave,
    Socialism relegated to the military,
    High on the Wall Street Journal’s Economic Freedom Index
    bad primary education
    shrinking middle class
    weak unions
    high crime

    Western Europe, Nordic Countries,
    Exemplary life expectancy,
    high quality of life,
    visible, weak oligarchy.
    The basics provided by the state.
    Much mandatory paid leave.
    lower on the Wall Street Journal’s Economic Freedom Index
    high education
    strong middle class
    strong unions
    low crime

  9. Every complaint I see up with voting only corresponds to voting for one of the two major parties, my point on voting was specifically not to do that which is far superior to not voting. As I said above, not voting often just sends the message to the powers that be that you have given up completely (regardless of how untrue that may be) so they should continue with their nefarious plans as it is working.

    @bucephalus much to my prior point made above, voting has lost its contractual impact because people choose either to vote for one of two nearly identical parties or not vote. In a contract one does something and gets something in return. Voting is no less a contract then any other it is just a contract that politicians break more then they fulfill. Fact is people and institutions can and do break contracts when they feel there are no repercussions to be paid, or the repercussions are small enough to be worth the risk of paying them. Look at all the contracts people make with insurance companies, there are just too many broken contracts to even list anywhere, let alone here.

    Its not that voting isn’t contractual, its that people have made the repercussions too small for the implied contract of voting to be worth following for a politician and so they behave just like insurance companies which over all gain more by violating their contracts then following them. Precisely the point I made above about what people should do with their vote causes their to be repercussions again for politicians not fulfilling their “contracts”. Admittedly that post is a bit long so most didn’t read it, and I certainly don’t blame anyone for that.

    As for Sweden and Denmark, the state pays for college, the state pays for your health, the state pays for massive welfare programs that cover about anything that any even remotely reasonable people want welfare for, the state collected the oil profits from their north sea contracts into a social fund that the populous gets to help vote on how it is spent, ect… That is the very definition of a socialized society. They are socialized democracies, and not without quotes. There is still a free market because a socialized society doesn’t end the free market, only full fledged communism does that. There is a difference.

  10. Under the current government of the United States the corperations decide to have 2 different canidates that bolth back corperate intrests. They then have the voters chose between them.

    Oh the canidates might have small diferences between them that corperations don´t care about. (abortion) but really non corperate backed canidates do not have a chance. The corperations like to put on the facade that there is a choice. It helps to pacify the masses.

    Choice 1 I kick you in the teeth
    Choice 2 I kick tou in the a$$
    Now you can´t complain that I kicked you if you don´t vote.

    I think this is a false choice.

  11. @brianheagney, that’s a perfect analogy.

    Under a bourgeois dictatorship, which is the political structure that corresponds to capitalism, there is no real democracy. They set the parameters and frame the debate. They let us choose only between the things they want us to have.

    Voting only encourages them.

  12. Leo,
    You are correct that democracy the worst political system except for all the others that have been tried. One could probably make a similar argument about capitalism. Let’s hear it for communism, feudalism, anyone? I could argue a distinction between trade for mutual benefit, and crony capitalism, but it seems a waste of time.

    I found the PayPal link on your site amusing. You denounce capitalism but want to get paid by private citizens who value your work. I suppose it puts you in good company. Jean Paul Sartre was a communist who loved his copyrights too. I could compare you to Metallica, but I like you.

  13. I didn’t mean to imply that capitalism is all cruelty and efficiency nor that socialism is all inefficiency and kindness. Rather I mean only that capitalism tends to be more efficient at producing goods than socialism, and socialism tends to be kinder at distributing goods than capitalism.

    Except for bucephalus and demons he imagines he is battling, no one wants capitalism to dominate all other ideals (bring back slavery, anyone?) and no one wants socialism to dominate all other ideals (go for government ownership of everything, anyone?). However, real people do seek a nice balance somewhere far from these extremes. IMHO, at the present moment we are in need of a move towards kindness.

    And back to the main point: although it can be horribly slow, and even frequently is counterproductive, IMHO thousands of years of history demonstrate that democracy beats the alternatives.

  14. To recap:

    Said TLW:
    Oh and add the Congolese to the corpse dump, too. How do you think we get the coltan for the motherboards of all the computers we’re writing and reading this from?

    I see you’re a fresh expert on mining resources, having done your bit of Indymedia reading. Hint: manufactures get their niobium, tantalum, lithium etc from Australia, Canada and Brazil. Nobody has to die for it, and Sony isn’t supplying those weapons with which the people in the Congo, in Liberia, in the Ivory Coast etc have been killing their neighbours for decades.

    Said Lee:
    There is a long continuum from cruel efficiency (capitalism) to inefficient kindness (socialism).

    Only if you believe in the hyperbole that the Man wanting to get something done for your paycheck is cruel and that the jackboot on your throat is, somehow, kind.

    Said someone:
    I don’t know if we need a full scale revolution or not, but whether or not we do, voting won’t hurt anything but not voting can and typically will.

    Voting doesn’t work because the ballot is not a contract. Namely:

    It doesn’t bind the elected party to fulfill his promises;
    It doesn’t prevent him from getting creative and trying to stuff that he hadn’t promised

    Now, at least Ted is consistent: millions of corpses and all-out failure weren’t enough for him to give up the socialist dream, and I bet he thinks that dream is worth a million more deaths, especially if of the right people. Not like some of you folks who sweet-talk socialism and delude yourselves thinking Sweden, Denmark etc are “socialist”, without the quotes.

  15. We have been over and over this one many times here. Obama proved me right. Voting is not only useless, it is a bad idea. We should have voted for McCain, if anything. At least then the right party would be getting credit.

  16. Ahem. We could always make voting mandatory. It’s possible, and it would be effective. What it would be effective AT, I don’t know. Maybe we would end up with President Palin . . .

  17. Right on, Ted. I’d love to hear you expound upon this concept of not voting. It may sound weird to some people. I like to think of it in terms of the following:

    You can vote on the following:
    Shall I kick you in the teeth?
    or, shall I kick you in the balls?

    If you don’t vote, then you’re giving up your voice, and you can’t complain when I end up kicking you.

    That might not be the best analogy, but I’m in the middle of a lot of work, and just wanted to say, “thanks” for posting this, and to just add that thought. Like I said, I’d be curious to here more about what you think.

  18. I am afraid I have to strongly object to your call against voting Ted. I don’t know if we need a full scale revolution or not, but whether or not we do, voting won’t hurt anything but not voting can and typically will.

    I honestly don’t understand why, both on the left and the right as well as anywhere in between, people who are fed up with the system decide not to vote. I always point out to them that their are tons of third parties which actually represent any view left right or otherwise and the response that I always here is “that would be throwing my vote away.” NO, not voting is throwing your vote away. Few more people vote then don’t (recent American turnout hovers around 60% with the roughly 68% of 2008 being unusually high). If more then half of the people who decided not to vote because “it doesn’t matter” got out and voted for the same third party that party would be elected with an overwhelming majority.

    Obviously this is a totally unreasonable expectation and an unrealistically utopian example as one could never get the diversity of opinion among the non-voting block to agree on a single third party as well as some other more subtle but still limiting problems that I won’t bother to highlight. None-the less, this is an important lead in to more realistic takes. Many of the people who do vote, because they correctly recognize its importance, vote in great frustration for one of the two major parties when they two would much prefer what is being offered by one of the third parties. If everyone, non-voter and frustrated voter alike, got educated about the third parties that were running in a given election and just voted based off of who best represented their opinions and beliefs, the two major parties would suffer humiliating and staggering defeats, and the healing of this diseased nation could begin.

    The obvious issue is the prevailing belief among frustrated voters and non-voters alike that third parties are unelectable. THIS IS A SELF FULFILLING PROPHECY. As long as the majority of potential voters believe this it remains true. When the majority of potential voters ceases to believe this then it ceases to be true. This is because those who believe it to be true choose to vote for a major party that they hate the least or just not vote at all. Collective belief can actually alter reality indirectly via the swaying or perturbing of people’s opinions and thus their actions.

    For instance, one of the most powerful tools for economic control that the fed posses, but that few acknowledge, is their press conferences and other information releases. No matter how bad the economic outlook might be to them, the fed never does a press release where they go “WOW WE ARE F—ED!” Regardless of whether it would be true or not, such a press release would cause the millions of independent players with enough importance to effect things in the American economic system would respond to such a report by selling stocks, shorting companies, increasing interest or other repayment forms or restrictions for their borrowers, firing workers, slashing compensation, and moving investments out of business or other economically constructive but down-turn-risky investments into safe-houses like gold and treasury bonds. As a result, even if we weren’t necessary f—ed before the announcement, we probably would be afterward. This is precisely why no matter how f—ed we are the fed never gives a worse report then “a short term dip followed by increased economic momentum and recovery”. While the positive spin the fed puts out as news for their press releases may strike some as disingenuous, it is occasionally their most effective tool for fighting a bad economic situation and the fact is they release their real numbers for the studies they do, so they are only offering a false opinion not false data and thus actual lies. For instance, in our current situation we are suffering from a liquidity trap. As a liquidity trap is almost entirely a private sector hangup there is nothing the fed can do in a direct sense to fix it. No amount of reducing interest rates or use of the other tools it has been empowered with can dig us out of a liquidity trap. To the amusement of some economists the fed has tried anyway (they don’t have anything to loose) but in the overextended metaphor the results are like trying to dig your way out of water. Instead, and ironically enough, the feds positive spin on the situation frees up more private sector capital from the liquidity trap then any direct influence they can hope to have (unless they were suddenly given the power to socialize the entire economy, not something I would recommend). It is very hard to calculate how much the feds positive spin effects the economy, but I think most people would be surprised and depressed how many hundreds of billions of dollars indirectly and eventually get moved around simply because of the choice of a few key words in their press releases.

    These same influences of perception are paramount into getting this democracy working again. Every time the percent of the population that would vote for third parties decides to stay at home or shoot for the lesser of two evils, the effective strength of the self fulfilling prophecy becomes stronger and builds a downward momentum confining all of us to our own apathetically created “two parties one s— fest” system. Conversely every time a percentage of the potential voting population moves over to the third parties, it halts this downward moment, and if gains were sustained over many elections, upward momentum would result. If such upward momentum caused third parties to get even within an electable range of the voting turn out things would get better anyway because people like Rahm Emanuel from both major parties will stop defecating on most of their party’s constituents and laughing at them while saying they have no where else to go if because they would in fact have plenty of other places to go.

    While I suspect this was true of Ron Paul (but I don’t actually know), I know that Ralph Nader ONLY runs to cause electoral fear inspired accountability in the major parties. One story that never made it around about the 2004 election, was that Kerry actually called up Nader and asked him if there was something that could be done to make Nader drop out. Nader’s response was to hand Kerry a large list of causes and tell him that if he seriously attempted to champion any three of the many causes from the list Nader would drop out immediately. Nader then pointed out a few items from the list that, based on polling, should actually steal some moderate conservatives from Bush just as an FYI. Kerry never got back to him, probably because he didn’t feel sufficiently threatened to actually pick up any non K-street sponsored causes. But if Nader didn’t get the votes he did back in 2000, Kerry wouldn’t have felt threatened enough to even call him up for a single round of negotiation at all.

    In the words of Howward Zin “you can’t stay neutral on a moving train”. If you don’t vote on election day, the system moves in the direction of those who do. In the most extreme case if all the citizens who actually care about the country stop showing up to vote then then the only people who do will be the lobbyists, corporate execs, and the people too dumb to have any original opinions let alone any beyond where corporate propaganda tells them to have. Do you honestly believe such a situation would make things better? Does this even send a message to those you might wish to send a message to other then “you have beat me so stay your course to onward to the total victory of corruption you have been seeking to achieve”? While I am loath to vote for either major party, I will grudgingly admit that voting for the lesser of two evils is still better then not voting. To paraphrase the words of Noam Chompsky “People always always justify not voting by saying it sends a message as opposed to voting for the lesser of two evils. The fact is though, when one integrates the results of electing the lesser of two evils over the period of many decades, in a relative frame of reference it actually adds up to doing quite a lot of good.”

    (Ted, I am sure you’ll do a better job mocking me with parody in return (and I welcome it) as you are good at your job while I am just an interloper, but as the nature of this site is political satire…)

    A large space ship spirals inwards out of control towards the event horizon of a black hole. On its massive bridge is an a myriad individuals with little computer consoles that control the ship. In front of one sits Ted Rall. Among all the many buttons available to him he pushes the largest and thus most attention grabbing button on the right of the console and instantly receives a painful shock. So then he pushes the second largest button located on the left side of the console and receives a slightly less painful shock. It doesn’t fix anything about the course of the ship, but as it hurts less, he keeps pushing the left button for a while taking the shocks in stride. Finally frustrated and desperate he stares at the numerous buttons available before him as well as the instructions for creating new buttons of his own design and thinks deeply about the dire situation. Finally he stands up and shouts to all who would hear him (most stuck in their own self imposed conundrum of shocking themselves with one of the two red buttons among the many others before them) and declares “People, stop pressing the buttons, we need to smash our consoles into little pieces!” “Anything but the obvious” indeed.

    Sorry everyone about the length, Ted’s post pushed a lot of my buttons and thus I had a bit to say. One option available to all is to just ignore me. Problem solved. Sorry for the inconvenience anyway.

  19. TLW,

    That is where you’re absolutely wrong. The Iraqis, Congolese, and American soldiers are not dying to give you a comfortable lifestyle, but to make only a few people rich. Case in point: coltan also found in Canada and Australia, and the Canadians and Australians aren’t dying to make you comfortable.

    Nobody *has* to die in order for others to be comfortable; they die to make a few people filthy rotten stinking rich. And largely at our expense. How comfortable will your lifestyle be when the bills for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars eventually become due?

  20. Lee, you have two misconceptions marring your logic.

    1) Capitalism is not inherently efficient. Socialism is not inherently inefficient (cf. all of the socialized medicine systems in the world, plus Social Security)

    2) The worst parts of capitalism are completely incompatible with democracy, and if the worst of capitalism exists in a society, democracy has gone.

  21. There is a long continuum from cruel efficiency (capitalism) to inefficient kindness (socialism). As a society we can afford a lot more kindness and so I am for a push to more kindness, even at the expense of some efficiency. However, IMHO, a call to boycott democracy is a step in the wrong direction. Democracy is the worst form of government, except all the others that have been tried, including revolution and anarchy.

    Yes, you have a right (and a duty) to push hard for whatever ideals you have, but even the worst parts of capitalism aren’t worth giving up democracy for; much as, even the worst security threats aren’t worth giving up civil liberties for.

  22. Ted – How do you propose we revolt? What would be the newly created system? You’ve already dissed the idea of any kind of anarchist system in your Afghan blogs, painting it with the usual media broad-brush of a lawless system inevitably corrupted by power-hungry bullies. Some kind of Socialist system? Most Socialist systems have embraced market capitalism as a form of prosperity and buy into the American consumerist model (Scandinavian countries, hell even China). So what is it? How should we revolt? Should be really waive our right to vote in November and give up what little power we currently have just because you assess it to not make a difference? Seems like the strategy of a disaffected 16 year old emo kid. Voting is free, after all, and even Jello-Friggin-Biafra endorses it, as well as direct action and community involvement, as a way to make change. Startin’ to lose faith in ya man. First no evidence of the pipeline in Afghanistan, now telling us not to vote, but instead revolt in some yet-to-be-defined way for some yet-to-be-defined purpose?

  23. I’m happy with the capitalist system. A few hundred thousand dead Iraqis, tens of thousands dead Afghans, and a few thousand prematurely dead Americans and Pakistanis is a price I’m willing to pay for a comfortable lifestyle.

    Keep the oil flowing until we carpet the Mojave and the Rockies with solar panels, and we can keep the party going indefinitely. Human civilization has always been lubricated by human blood. Our fortune is that we’ve now managed to restrict it to a few nationalities.

    Oh and add the Congolese to the corpse dump, too. How do you think we get the coltan for the motherboards of all the computers we’re writing and reading this from?

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