John Lennon never envisioned the kind of strange days we’re having now, that’s for sure. This is particularly true when it comes to that ever-expanding grey area marked “The Intersection Of Corporate And Government Power”. Highlights from the grey area this week:
- Last year, Swedish fast-fashion trash-goblins H&M made some kind of bland statement about being “deeply concerned” by reports that cotton grown in the Xinjiang region of China was being harvested using slave labor. These statements were brought back to public attention via social media this week, causing the Chinese government to take some, ahem, direct action, at which point H&M basically apologized to China for criticizing their use of slave labor to harvest cotton.
- The president of Delta Air Lines — you know, the guy who actually made a video showing all his blue-collar employees clapping for him as he walks into a hangar, then caused that video to be shown at the beginning of every Delta flight — criticized Georgia for its new voting-protection law. This caused the Georgia government to take some, ahem, direct action.
- Facebook announced, after censoring an interview between Lara Trump and President Donald Trump, that it would no longer allow Trump’s voice to be heard on the platform. They meant that literally; everything from the “Home Alone 2” scene to, say, a theoretical recording of Trump reading the Gettysburg Address will be immediately deleted from Facebook.
- Major League Baseball also announced their decision to punish Georgia for the new voting law by withdrawing the All-Star game from Atlanta, while at the same time affirming their decision to build dozens of “baseball development centers” in partnership with the Chinese government.
- A spokesperson for the Biden Administration reaffirmed that there would be no government-issued “vaccine passport”, and then hastened to add that the Biden Administration would work with corporations to help develop guidelines for privately issued vaccine passports.
Most peculiar, momma! Is there a common thread on which to pull here? And what does it unravel, exactly?
It’s tempting to sum it all up as, “Corporations are now wholly subject to the Left, whether the Left is Chinese or American.” Or maybe it’s “Corporations respect the Chinese government and are willing to bend to its whims, but they expect the American government to cooperate with their directives at the very least and comply where possible.” Truthfully, both of these reductions strike me as a bit whiny on second glance, and too close to the OMG HYPOCRISY stupidity regularly engaged in by “conservative” pundits.
(I remind the reader that an apparent discrepancy between Facebook censoring Trump’s voice and Facebook allowing, say, ISIS to post beheading videos without censorship is not hypocrisy; rather it is what the kids call a “flex”, or a naked display of strength. Life is not your high school debate class. Pointing out these seeming contradictions will not cause Facebook, or any other converged organization, to disappear into a puff of smoke. They know the contradictions exist. It is by design. Part of the purpose is to humiliate you and to cause you to experience cognitive dissonance.)
As of late I’ve been reading Curtis Yarvin’s Substack. I highly recommend it for anyone who wants a non-sugar-coated view of the world, as opposed to the balanced-and-cheerful viewpoint I try to promote here at Riverside Green. One of Yarvin’s more thoughtful points, and one to which he returns on a frequent basis, is the idea of “power leakage”.
Let me put it to you in the simplest terms. You have a kingdom with an absolute monarch. In theory, all the power in the kingdom is concentrated in the monarch. He makes decisions, speaks his will, and the kingdom acts accordingly. When the monarch is educated, benevolent, intelligent, and thoughtful, as was the case with
Cecil Rhodes Augustus Caesar Suleiman I, then there is no better form of government available. Alas, most monarchs are either bad people, or — and this is worse — they are bad at holding on to power. They allow other people to exercise their power in their name, without oversight or concern. Think Cardinal Wolsey, or the Star Chamber, or the men who surrounded Emperor Hirohito.
When power leaks, when it becomes unaccountable and mysterious and capricious, it is almost always evil, in effect if not intent. The fable of Robin Hood is about power leakage, as are many other fables. Furthermore, leakages of power, like random leaks of an irrigation pipe on fertile ground, create weed-like growths that are not easily eradicated.
With this idea of power leakage in mind, let’s take a look at how China handled those unpleasant people at H&M who didn’t want slave-labor cotton in their sweatshop goods. They didn’t arrest anyone, and they didn’t bring out the Red Guards. But they did ensure that all H&M stores simply disappeared from mapping applications, including Apple Maps. At the same time, H&M because very difficult to find on the Chinese Internet. If you didn’t already know where the local H&M was, you weren’t going to find it. And if you wanted to buy online, you were out of luck.
This forcible disappearance happened in coordinated and rapid fashion. Needless to say, H&M got the message in coordinated and rapid fashion as well, quickly promising to “regain the trust” of Chinese consumers, presumably by making sure that there is plenty of slave-labor cotton in the sweatshop clothing. And as far as anyone is concerned, that’s that.
Do you see any power leakage here? I certainly don’t. I see the Chinese government acting like it has sole control of the country. Because it does. I think it is particularly telling that Apple Maps was complicit in the disappearance of H&M stores. For all of their social-justice bluster in America, Apple has no difficulty complying precisely with the Chinese government’s requests, no matter what those requests might be.
Alright, let’s dip back to America and see what’s going on here. Georgia passed a new voting law. It’s 98 pages long. I haven’t read it, but I’ve read summaries of what the law contains, including a summary from CNN, and I find it very hard to see any racism in the law as it has been explained to me. Much has been made of the “you can’t hand out water at the polling place” rule; turns out that it’s just a general law saying you can’t give away any free items to people anywhere near a voting booth. I’ve had several friends agonize over the RACIST nature of the law; I’ve patiently asked each and every one of them to show me where the law is RACIST. Their response, to a man, has been something along the lines of “It just is” or “It’s too obvious for me to explain it”.
It should go without saying that there is no mention of race or color in the law. That doesn’t stop people from saying it targets Black people. I’m always uncomfortable with assertions like that because they sail awfully close to President Biden’s infamous quote that “poor kids are just as smart as white kids”. One concern is that you have to have some form of identification to fill out an absentee ballot. Doesn’t have to be a state ID or a vaccine passport, both of which will likely be necessary in the near future to get on a plane or train or bus. A utility bill will do, as will several other kinds of bills mailed to the home.
That being said, I have no personal involvement with the law. I don’t live in Georgia and I don’t vote in Georgia. What is of interest to me here is the power leakage demonstrated by Delta, Coca-Cola, and Major League Baseball. It seems obvious that there would be no possibility of these companies even commenting on, much less attempting to interfere with, a new Chinese election law. Here in the States, however, they have no qualms about attempting to bully the Georgia legislature into compliance with… what, exactly?
Curtis Yarvin knows what. He is not afraid to state the obvious: that there is an unwritten, and constantly changing, but also universally known, New Code of American behavior. We all know that there are many things that simply cannot be said or written in the America of 2021. It doesn’t matter whether or not those things are true; in fact, in many cases the more true they are the more harsh your punishment will be. The subject of vote fraud is one of those forbidden things. If you make any public assertion that the 2020 election was compromised, even if your assertion consists of nothing but documented and criminally charged instances of voter fraud, you are asking to become a modern unperson.
(For the record, we here at Riverside Green unequivocally and totally believe that the recent election was the fairest, safest, and most secure election in American history. We believe that the mechanisms used to count and validate a historically unprecedented number of mail-in ballots were safer and more secure than any of the previous in-person, ID-verified votes in American history. At the same time, we also believe that Amazon is absolutely right in requiring all ballots in its facility unionization votes to be cast in-person with valid ID, because Amazon is a good company and the matter of unionizing one of its distribution centers is too important and vital to be handled via electronic, mail-in, or non-ID-verified votes. Thank you for reading.)
In any event, it is part of the modern American catechism that voting needs to be as easy as possible, and that no methods whatsoever should be used to validate ballots. (Other than the slightly wacky one of only counting the first ballot cast in someone’s name, and throwing out all the rest.) I don’t think anybody could tell you when this idea became a mandatory part of our beliefs. Certainly it has never been part of American history, which typically relied on voters either having valid ID or being personally known to the administrators of the polling place. No public pronouncement was ever made on the subject. And yet we all instinctively know What The Goodthink Is on the subject of votes nowadays.
The ironic part of Delta’s concern trolling over this election law is that it applies to neither Delta’s employees nor its customers. All members of both groups need to possess valid state-issued ID and pass a secretive, near-mystical background check by the TSA. This is very different from, say, a firearms manufacturer leaving the State of New York because nobody in the state besides cops can legally possess its products, or even an automaker moving to another state because they want to do away with union laborers. Delta has no dog in this fight — except the alpha dog of Eternal Social Justice, for which all profits must be sacrificed if necessary.
Georgia’s response to this corporate activism was swift and surprisingly Chinese: the state House of Representatives voted to remove a multi-million-dollar tax break for Delta. The Senate might confirm this vote, or it might not. It’s worth noting, however, that the media is very agitated about this retaliatory action. It’s perfectly fine for Delta to threaten the state of Georgia; it’s not fine for Georgia to return the favor. This is the precise opposite of the Chinese model.
Meanwhile, we have Biden’s statement that vaccine passports (ugh) will be privately created using government guidelines.
In any benevolently run country — scratch that, in any competently run country — this kind of power leakage would be absolutely prohibited. The government would set laws regarding speech and those laws would be universal, whether you were standing on a soapbox or posting on Snapchat. While it would be perfectly fine to require employees of a Burger King to refrain from using racist or slanderous terms while working in the store, it would not be fine for Burger King to fire someone because they said something unpleasant on their own time, or in their own homes. Corporations would be free to leave a state if they wanted to, but they would also expect to be subject to the power of the legislature in whatever states they inhabited. If a group of people were, let’s say, to create a secret Facebook group to discuss ways to get someone fired from his job, then said group would fall under the definition of racketeering and the people in the group would be prosecuted.
It would also go pretty much without saying that Facebook could not make the insane decision to prohibit a current or former President from speaking on its platform. Imagine this happening in China. You can’t. The only way it would happen would be if the government decided that the former president shouldn’t have a voice at all, in any situation, at which point Facebook would be the least of his worries.
This competent government would have a vaccine passport — or it would prohibit the existence of vaccine passports, the same way WalMart is not allowed to issue you a competing variant of the state driver’s license that lets you go down one-way streets backwards. All the powers that have been leaked to corporations over the years would be recaptured and administered by the government. (Want a good example? Alright: private prisons.) Most critically, if it had a “social credit” system, the system would be transparent, centrally administered, and based on easily understandable rules. It would be nice if those rules were meant to enhance the quality of life and discourse in the country, but they would be clear in any case.
What I’ve described, of course, is the Chinese government, which has spent the past twenty-five years improving the Chinese standard of living while also promoting and ensuring Chinese interests abroad. Everyone respects the Chinese government because it does not leak power. There is no equivalent to the “deep state”; there is only the State. It may be capricious, unfair, or even murderous, but it is always responsible.
Having considered this, it seems obvious that the explanations for all of the events listed at the beginning of this column are, in fact, the same explanation: Corporations respect power, but they also seek it. If the state demonstrates power over them, they will obey. If the state leaks power, corporations will attempt to be the recipients of that leak. If the state leaks enough power, the corporations will start to exercise power of a sort themselves, over the state.
The libertarian crowd will tell you that this is a Good Thing, but that’s only because they imagine that the interests of the corporations align with their own. In truth, the power that corporations seek is both absolute and tyrannical. They will always work towards a situation where you are forced to buy their product, a situation where the Terms of Service bind you to absolute fealty while committing them to nothing. And you don’t get a vote.
It seems obvious that the whole world is heading towards a model where government and corporations march in lockstep — which used to be called “fascism” before the term was redefined to mean “voting Republican”. John Lennon envisioned part of that future in “Imagine”: a world where “you’ll own nothing / and you’ll be happy”, a world where people put aside family and faith so they can “live for today”. The only question seems to be: Who will have the upper hand, the corporations or the government? Think carefully before you answer.