Eamonn Kelly: They Will Kill To Have Their Way


From top: Michael Moore promoting his documentary Farenheit 11/9 and protesting the poisoning of the privatised water supply in Flint, Michigan, USA last September; Eamonn Kelly

Someone I met recently dismissed privatisation as a dull non-issue, regarding it as a fait accompli and something that wasn’t really that serious in the long run.

Michael Moore’s latest documentary, Fahrenheit 11/9, is a stark reminder of what privatisation actually means as played out in the more “advanced” corporate structures of the United States, which are currently laying waste to all around them.

Privatisation in the United States is like a cancer eating up whole districts.

For instance, the so-called opioid crisis came about when pharmaceutical companies knowingly hooked people on opiate-laden painkillers in order to create a market. Like drug-pushers used to do, giving heroin to kids outside schools to create a “demand”.

With Moore’s documentary, what I imagined would be an attack on Trump is actually far more nuanced than anything so simple, turning out be as much an indictment of the Democratic Party as it is of Trump.

Or, more accurately, an indictment of the political elites of the United States, who are not unlike our own small political elites, characterised as they are by serving business, to the detriment of the people who elect them; while denigrating those who are poor in capital and in political representation.

This new breed of neo-liberal politician not only turns a blind eye to social injustice, but often actively and even knowingly, creates social injustice.

The deliberate lying that took place in the Democratic party to ensure that Hilary Clinton would get the nomination over Bernie Sanders, who actually had more support, was, according to the Moore film, morally sanctioned by the belief that a woman “deserved” to be president at last.

So, they cheated the system to promote Hilary at the expense, not only of Bernie Sanders and all his supporters, but also at the expense of the integrity of the democratic party and the integrity of the democratic process.

This deliberate deception, along with Obama’s visit to Flint, Michigan in early 2016 to address the problem of lead poisoning that came in the wake of the privatisation of the water supply, contributed to an increasing lack of faith among the electorate in the democratic process.

What happened in Flint was that after the water supply was privatised, a contract was then put out to build a new pipeline. A new pipeline wasn’t really needed, except to create a profit opportunity for a private contractor.

What this meant was that the Flint water supply, instead of being drawn from a clean lake, was instead drawn from a polluted river while the new pipeline was being built.

As well as poisoning 10,000 children with ingested lead, the river also, it turned out, was damaging components in the local General Motors car factory. Metal components. General Motors complained and were given access to the clean water supply.

The people of Flint however, were left to drink from the lead-polluted water source. The majority of these people, by the way, are African American.

A distress call was sent to the black president who arrived on Air Force one. Some people wept on seeing him. Everything would be okay now. He would stand with them surely against the Republican governor who had brought all this privatization misery and distress on the town. I was with them. I was a bit of a fan of Obama too and I totally expected some kind of happy ending.

What did Obama do? Standing at the dais to speak to and reassure the people of Flint, he asked for a glass of water. Not a bottle of water. By this time everyone in Flint was drinking bottled water. People yelled from the audience that he should drink bottled.

Obama took a sip from the glass of water brought to him. Not a big swallow, a careful sip. He minimized the issue. He said that he was sure that when he was a “kid” he might have picked at flakes of paint that contained lead, and eaten them.

He said in effect that there was no problem, and he flew away leaving behind an entire town totally disillusioned with politics and democracy and the political elite who appear to, no matter what they might say, serve business interests only and damn the ordinary people with neglect.

Weeks later, for reasons not fully explained by anyone, except one soldier who conjectured that Flint had a lot of empty and derelict buildings, the US army conducted training manoeuvres in Flint, using live ammunition, without having consulted the town of their intention to do so.

Helicopters flew low over the town firing guns. Mortars and rockets exploded into derelict buildings. The impression given was that the US government, even before Trump, was already gone rogue and was now a tool of corporate America, to the exclusion of all other considerations.

These two events, taken together, the side-lining of Bernie Sanders to promote Hilary Clinton’s presidential ambitions, and Obama’s betrayal of the people of Flint over the poisoning of their water supply, conspired to create an environment of political complacency among the electorate, combined with a more generalised anger at the political establishment, that had the effect of catapulting Trump into office, with perhaps some help from Russian hackers.

The documentary implies that Trump would never have been elected if the Democratic party hadn’t been so elitist as to alienate its own electoral base by placing feminist aspirations above democratic integrity. Cheating the democratic process in the name of a perceived good or righteous cause is still cheating.

Moore’s startling conclusion is that the Democratic party were the first to depart from democratic principles which gave rise to Trump.

Obama’s mockery of Trump’s presidential ambitions in the growing climate of political disillusion can’t have helped; while his downplaying of the polluted water supply in Flint would not have gone unnoticed by poor black communities across the country.

What Moore’s documentary showed was that the political establishment is already lost to corporate influence, as it is here and in most democratic countries, as detailed in Joeseph E. Stiglitz’s “The Price of Inequality”. In this case the price was Trump in the White House and all subsequent costs, including deliberate environmental devestation.

What Michael Moore’s disturbing documentary demonstrated was that the corporate overlords really don’t give a damn about the well-being of normal people or the environment. That there is no argument or revelation of injustice that will change their approach.

The chilling conclusion is that they know exactly what they are doing. It’s not a mistake or an oversight. They will kill to have their way. That, ultimately, is what privatisation truly means. It’s not a game. They’ll have our skins for lamp-shades if they believe there’s a market for them.

Eamonn Kelly is a freelance journalist, His column appears here monthly.

18 thoughts on “Eamonn Kelly: They Will Kill To Have Their Way

  1. A Person

    Was Hilary Clinton not chosen in a democratic vote by her own party, or does this suit your agenda?

    1. Cian

      but they liedto ensure that Hilary Clinton would get the nomination over Bernie Sanders, who actually had more support,

    2. DrGonzo

      As someone who supported Bernie Sanders, it was shocking to see how rigged it was in Hillary’s favor.

      Firstly the primaries are not “one man one vote”. In the 1970’s the rules were changed to include Superdelegates, democratic party insiders who also get to vote. In 2016 was a total of 719 Superdelegates who represented 15% of the overall vote. Clinton got 572 of them to vote for her vs the 42 that voted for Bernie Sanders.

      The practical effect of this was that Hillary Clinton had a baked in lead of around 10-12% before the first voter even arrived at a polling station. Sanders would need to win by 13% just to get 1% ahead of Hillary in the primaries vote count.

      Individual cities also had a lot of shady behaviour during the actual vote in the democratic party. Las Vegas was expected to go towards Bernie giving the amount of working poor voting (hotel cleaners, waiters and the like) who lived in Las Vegas city. When the vote came, it appears there were not enough ballots in the poor areas polling stations, multiple reports of people waiting 4-5 hours to vote, while in the richer areas (and more Pro Hillary places) voting was smooth. It was one of the cities where Hillary narrowly won. Few other cities the same thing played out.

      Another scandal was Donna Brazil during the debates. Donna Brazil used to work on Bill Clinton’s staff and was selected to moderate one of the debates. It came out after the election that Hillary got given a list of questions she would be asked during the debate, while Sanders was asked the questions on the spot and live.

      It was a disgraceful campaign to watch from Ireland.

      1. Cian

        Is your superdelegate issue not a bit like suggesting that the 2016 election isn’t democratic and was “rigged” by Trump getting more electoral collage votes even though Hilary got more actual votes.

        Both parties knew the rules going in – and both knew they need to win the important vote: either the swing states (Hilary) or the super delegates (Sanders).

      2. Clampers Outside!

        Democrats? Vote rigging?

        Someone fetch the smelling salts! …I’m sure Nigel has fainted!

    3. Listrade

      It’s pretty well documented at this stage that the DNC did everything it could to stop Saunders. The DNC runs an initial “invisible primary” lobbying the big donors and “elites” to find the candidate that would get their support. Hillary won that by a long way in 2013 way before the actual primaries. Ironically this helped Bernie a bit as the support for Clinton was so large, it meant that no other real challengers from the Democrats put themselves forward as a candidate. This left an opening for Bernie to run, but in effect, she already had the crown. The support and money from the Democratic backers was all for her.

      But then came the primaries and Bernie got support via “grass roots” campaigning and funding, and the DNC, who are supposed to be neutral, started a campaign against Bernie. They had to apologise for this, but only after the famous email leaks (and that got lost a bit in all the other conspiracies). And there’s plenty of other stuff. You can go into Super PACs and plenty of other areas all through the DNC that worked to stop Bernie.

      The Democratic Primary isn’t democratic. The Saunders issue is now a matter of record.

    1. Clampers Outside!

      +1 …not the biggest fan of Moore, but it sounds like a documentary without favour to any side… non-partisan.

  2. KM

    corporate/financial capture.
    Your newspaper, the social welfare, soon the health service and your water all privatised for corporate profit.

    Look at Acctavo/Siteserv – water privatization first, then involvement in last broadband bidder and now involved in the Children’s hospital.

    The taxes you pay are being used to line the pockets of corporate interests – businessmen, multinationals and those that enable the theft of the commons.
    They’ll say it’s about jobs but if your ideology believes, as neoliberals do, that money trickles down then what they really mean is profits. It’s a failed economic and political/social ideology that has gawked up the likes of Trump, the Golden Dawn, the AfD and the Nazis infesting American streets.

    And like Fascism, it is a death cult. It has already killed hundreds of thousands if not millions. It will kill this planet and it’s ability to sustain life.

    But y’know Profits, like.

  3. Nigel

    ‘The documentary implies that Trump would never have been elected if the Democratic party hadn’t been so elitist as to alienate its own electoral base by placing feminist aspirations above democratic integrity.’

    Flint is a stain on the Obama presidency, and not the only one, and the chances are Clinton wouldn’t have been much better. After all, they’re closer to the technocratic neo-liberal centre-right likes of Varadkar on the political scale of things. But holy moses. Clinton was a Democratic political operative with decades of experience and name brand recognition. Sanders was an independent outsider who jumped on board the DNC at his own convenience (that’s not to condemn him for it, the two-party system there is wretched.) Blaming ‘feminist aspirations’ for the DNC’s Clinton bias is laughably simplistic. The DNC has feminist aspirations. Hopefully Bernie Sanders has feminist aspirations, too. To blame one of the basic fundamentals of a party for the cheating involved in the primary process is to suggest the principles themselves are somehow bad or wrong, or even corrupt. The DNC are more likely to have preferred her because she is, presumably, more centre-right on privatisation and a bunch of other things, than because of feminist aspirations.

  4. Eoin Schweppe

    We have an illusion of democracy, we also have an illusion of freedom of speach. We are lead to believe that the likes of repealing the 8th or same sex marriage are expamples of our freedom, they are just crumbs that succeed in two things get the massses fighting between themselves and let us think we have a democracy.
    Look what we have lost in the last decade or more and compare it to the gains. More and more of our public services are privatized or outsourced and lost to neo liberalism.
    Every man, woman and child has a growing debt over their heads, we are forced to have both parents working if you want to buy a little 3 bed semi which is considered by our government to be affordable at €320,000. You are forced to pay for your waste that no longer operates as a cost basis but a for profit one, the employees get as little as possible both in pay and conditions while a tiny few hoard their wealth. Homeless is now outsourced to ‘charities’ so if it’s not working our government can tell us how they paid and it must be the charities fault if they fail to deliver, acres of public owned land is being handed over to the private interests so our taxes can buy back properties at full price.
    Slowly but surely we loose more and more of our public services, they make it so bad and tell everyone that is is too complicated to fix, that everyone believes it’s a great idea to privatize, the health service and Dublin bus are just two examples.
    We run one of the best tax havens in the world but we are not allowed to call it that and if we think the owners of social media are on our side, think again they love their tax breaks as much as every other billionaire.
    Oh and it’s the fault of poor non white immigrants.

    1. Cian

      Hmm… we’ve never had a proper public health service. It was originally run (mostly) by religious orders, and since the foundation of the state we have continued with this outsourcing to these charities.

      You are right that housing is a mess. A mix of the great public-sell-off of the 90s (were billions of public resources was transferred to a smallish number of private citizens) and the lack of credit (or will) to build houses between 2008 and 2015.

      1. Eoin Schweppe

        Although the health service was managed by the religious orders the employees were still public servants, there is now €1m per day being spent on outsourced nurses and doctors, again just like everything else this allows for unquestioned stats being quoted telling us x amount is spent on health and they are now spending more than ever before on health, we all go away happy thinking they are doing their best while yet again more taxes are being converted to private untaxed profit off the backs of workers with less rights than before.

        The housing crisis is not an accident and was allowed and encouraged by some fat lad from Limerick who will be earning more money for the rest of his life than the average worker could dream of. No point in trying to sell off reposed homes when you have the power to strangle the market and increase prices at the same time writing off loses against future tax on profits.

        I wish all these scams were available to me lol.

        1. Cian

          The housing crisis is not a recent accident.
          It has its roots in the great council-house sell-offs of the 90s.

  5. Dub Spot

    Can you change this article’s headline and remove the word “Flint” from it, please? I am sure others will think it’s about Keith Flint and start reading it. Really, they should not bother.

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