Control the Head, Control the Legs – Ryan Rhoades

As a former wrestler and wrestling coach, I taught my athletes that wrestling is a sport about control.  If you control your opponent’s head his body will have to follow.  If you control his legs, his major power source, you can dictate his movements.  The one with the superior position always has an advantage to exercise the most control.

I also taught them that wrestling is the toughest sport and it mirrors life in more ways than any other sport.  Wrestling is the oldest sport; older than Athens-style democracy and practiced in the ancient Greek city-state of Olympia during the first Olympics.

Although it has only been a year since I gave those words of advice, they are turning out to be truer than I realized at the time.

The powers-that-be have used this knowledge, these methods of control, to advance their selfish agenda at the detriment of the average citizen.  The powerful political class and the even-wealthier bank and corporate managers, who often remain in the shadows, are systematically destroying our democracy right before our very eyes.

The “Power Elite”, a term coined by sociologist C. Wright Mills, controls the head using the mainstream media and controls the legs using socioeconomic policies.  If you control the head and the legs, the body is bound to follow.

The mainstream media is often considered to be the fourth branch of government or the mouthpiece of the government.  After this past decade, it is becoming ever more apparent that the politicians in charge have successfully used the media as a mouthpiece to spread lies regarding phony threats.  As I pointed out in an earlier article, the Bush administration knowingly lied (935 times) to the American people about Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction.  Seven years later, thousands of American lives later, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilian lives later, and nearly a trillion dollars later – what have we gained?  Alienating the Muslim world and showing other countries that our government and the CIA are above the rule of law and will not hesitate to send in drone aircraft in supposed sovereign nations in the name of fighting terror?

Where and when will the madness end?

I find it interesting that private contractors have benefitted from our current quagmire in the Middle East, some of whom had control of our government during these invasions.  Dick Cheney was the CEO of Halliburton, the largest U.S. contractor, before becoming the Vice President when the U.S. military went into Iraq under false claims.  Gallup Polls show that in interviews before and after the invasion of Iraq, Americans believed that it was likely or certain that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.

Today, Gallup Polls show that a majority of Americans not only believe that the War in Iraq was a mistake, but 32% polled believe we are “less safe” from terrorism as compared to 25% who believe we are “safer” as a result (the rest believe there is “no change”).  What does this say – the fact that citizens mistakenly believed a costly lie – about the role the corporate media play in advancing government interests?  Americans could be blamed for not being critical readers and thinkers, but the power elite knows that if they control the head (what Americans perceive) they control the body politic.

By 2004, five large corporations owned the majority of media outlets in the U.S.  These five corporations – Time Warner, Disney, News Corporation, Bertelsmann (Germany) and Viacom – along with General Electric (coming in at #6) control what Americans see and hear on a daily basis.  In contrast, 50 corporations controlled most of the news media in 1983.  Think about this for a moment.  What are the consequences when fewer and fewer profit-driven companies control the type of news and information citizens are exposed to?  Remember, private corporations are obligated to put their profits and shareholders’ interests ahead of any other priorities.

Even the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in the Citizens United case shows how much influence corporate interests have on our government.  In that ruling, the Supreme Court effectively stated that corporations could spend limitless money on campaign contributions because it was a form of “free speech.”  In other words, the most powerful court system in this country effectively ruled that limitless spending by the most powerful corporations constituted free speech.  Should any concerned citizen not be worried about this?  The next item on the corporate-political agenda appears to be privatizing the internet, the last great bastion of publicly-available information.  A true democracy depends on the freedom and availability of information so that citizens can make informed choices.  Obviously this conflicts with the ability of the powerful to maintain power.  Open transparency leads to greater accountability, which is ultimately a threat to anyone trying to undermine democratic power.

Controlling our minds and what we perceive is not the only strategy that the powerful use against the average citizen.  Anyone in a superior position understands that in order to maintain that position, one must control resources and, consequently, the opportunities that those resources provide.  Controlling the legs – the potential income, wealth, resources and mobility of citizens – will ultimately result in controlling the actions of the citizenry.

There are countless examples of the ways in which our government controls the population through unequal economic policies of taxation, favored treatment of Wall Street criminals, social methods of control through incarceration and general restrictions on liberties that bear no scientific justification.

One instance of this is currently taking place within the 24/7 news cycle.  Republicans are demanding that President Obama extend the Bush-era tax cuts.  They want all of the tax cuts to be extended, not even willing to meet the middle class half way by only extending the tax cuts for the middle class.  A vast majority of these tax cuts will benefit the wealthiest of all Americans, and less than 2% of small businesses fall within the top two tax brackets (another fallacious Republican argument for extending the tax cuts).  In addition, the Economic Policy Institute revealed these findings:

Economist Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics estimates that every dollar spent making the Bush income tax cuts permanent generates only 32 cents of economic activity. Comparatively, every dollar spent on unemployment assistance generates $1.61 worth of economic activity, a dollar of spending on infrastructure yields $1.57 and a dollar in assistance to states to prevent layoffs of teachers or first responders yields $1.41. Tax cuts for the wealthy are simply not a good way to stimulate the economy.

Warren Buffet recently declared that, “There’s class warfare all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”  And yet, from what you hear in the media, particularly from Republicans and wealthy business interests, anytime “class warfare” is brought up, it is by the richest Americans who pretend that eliminating the Bush tax cuts would be a fatal mistake.  Let’s start from the top, the leaders of the Republican Party:

Representative John Boehner (House Minority Leader): “I think the president is missing the bigger point here. You can’t have a strong economy if you’re raising taxes on the very people you expect to invest in our economy to begin hiring people again.”

Senator Mitch McConnell (Senate Minority Leader): “…There’s no evidence whatsoever that the Bush tax cuts actually diminished revenue. They increased revenue, because of the vibrancy of these tax cuts in the economy.”

Senator John McCain: “Well, let’s get in the old class warfare again. Let’s get the rich. Just extend the tax cuts. Then let’s talk about the payroll tax holiday, … which is something [Republicans] have fought for a long period of time, and pay for it out of the unused stimulus funds, or cut other spending.”

Representative Paul Ryan: The author of “The Roadmap to America’s Future” and the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee has plans to radicalize current policies to favor the wealthy.  Congressman Ryan’s brilliant “roadmap” results in: (1.) Cutting the taxes of the richest 1% in half; (2.) Average tax cut of $502,000 for those who make over $1 million a year; (3.) Average tax cut of $1.7 million for those who make over $2.9 million or more a year; (4.) Entirely exempt capital gains, dividends, and interest from taxation, which largely benefit the wealthiest Americans; (5.) Repeal the federal estate and gift taxes; (6.) Repeal the corporate income tax and replace it with an 8.5-percent value-added tax, a form of sales tax on most goods and services; and it Congressman Ryan’s plan would also reduce Social Security payments over time, as well as eliminate Medicare altogether.

Finally, I am sure you have seen those commercials that feature interviewees who are against “raising taxes” and how “this is the wrong time to raise taxes”.  Well if you paid close attention you would have seen that at the end of the commercial it shows that it was paid for by the American Petroleum Institute.  In other words, the gas and oil companies who have made record-breaking profits this past decade are using their wealth to peddle propaganda that is distorting the truth.  Unlike those annoying BP commercials that attempt to make you feel better about the irresponsible acts of one of the largest and most profitable oil companies, this ad would benefit all oil companies and wealthy bankers whose greed has negatively affected the majority of U.S. citizens.

The only problem with the top Republicans calling for the extension of all the Bush tax cuts along with the oil industries’ television advertisement is that it flies in the face of logic and has no bearing of truth.  This misinformation campaign only benefits the wealthiest one percent of Americans.  During a time of national suffering amid the worst recession since the Great Depression, it is appalling that wealthy politicians are still trying to capitalize on the poor and middle class America.

In response to Senator McCain’s claim that “liberals” are committing “class warfare,” Katrina vanden Heuvel of The Nation summed it up pretty well in a recent interview: “Class warfare is where you have corporations sitting on $1.8 trillion.  Class warfare is banks’ profits reaching pre-recession levels.  Class warfare – give me a break.”

In summation, the people who control the policies of this nation are determined to enrich themselves while tearing apart the middle class and continuing to demoralize the impoverished in the process.  For them, it is not a sport like wrestling, but a method of control and a way for them to continue to pass their unsavory and selfish acts of legislation.

It is apparent that there will be no hero from the top ranks of the political class who will save our democracy.  We must rely on our numbers to combat the destructive course that our corrupted leaders have irresponsibly set us on – much as Dr. King did during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s.  Unfortunately for him, these advancements have been reduced under Reagan and Bush 1 & 2, but the world is starting to wake up to our government’s greedy plot to take advantage of the less fortunate.

A grassroots movement from the bottom up is the only way to get our message across.  If our current economic recession continues and joblessness continues to increase then it will happen sooner than later.  The workers of the U.S. are the sleeping giant and we will soon have the superior position. Once we wake up and realize how bad we are getting screwed, there is no controlling the wrath of our due vengeance.  Middle class America will soon have the superior position and we will wrestle long enough to regain control of our heads and our legs.  If not, a hopefully non-violent revolution is sure to take hold.

Our democracy depends on it.

Excerpt from the book The New Media Monopoly by Ben Bagdikian:

In 1983, the men and women who headed the 50 mass media corporations that dominated American audiences could have fit comfortably in a modest hotel ballroom. The people heading the 20 dominant newspaper chains probably would form one conversational cluster to complain about newsprint prices; 20 magazine moguls in a different circle denounce postal rates; the broadcast network people in another corner, not being in the newspaper or magazine business, exchange indignation about government radio and television regulations; the book people compete in outrage over greed of writers’ agents; and movie people gossip about sexual achievements of their stars.

By 2003, five men controlled all these old media once run by the 50 corporations of 20 years earlier. These five, owners of additional digital corporations, could fit in a generous phone booth. Granted, it would be a tight fit and it would be filled with some tensions.

In this imaginary phone booth would be Richard Parsons, chairman and CEO of AOL Time Warner, who would be cautious about his job, because he was now chief of the world’s largest media firm only because his former co-chiefs, Steve Case and Carl Levin, had been dethroned. Michael Eisner, chief of Disney, would demand his own foot space the way he did after he and his old friend, Michael Ovitz, engineered capture of the vast Mickey Mouse empire by promising co-leadership, whereupon Eisner dumped his old friend on the principle of One Empire, One Emperor. The notoriously irascible Sumner Redstone, ruler of Viacom, formerly CBS, would be all elbows because News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch had bought Hughes Electronics’ satellite-transmitted DirecTV that gives Murdoch financial and technical power that surpasses Viacom. Finally, the fifth occupant would be Reinhard Mohn, patriarch of the 168-year-old German firm, Bertelsmann, as aloof as one can be in a crowded phone booth because he is head of, among other things, the world’s largest publisher of English-language books, but not long before had been caught lying about his firm’s Nazi-era history.

Admittedly, it may be difficult to imagine five of the world’s most influential executives standing in one phone booth, an act usually reserved for college students competing for a place in the Guinness Book of World Records (which says the record is 25 young men at St. Mary’s College, in Moraga, California). It takes a stretch of imagination to think of five corporate executives doing the same thing. On the other hand, it would have been difficult to imagine in 1983 that the corporations that owned all the country’s dominant mass media would, in less than 20 years, shrink from 50 separate companies

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