The contagious madness of Citizens United

For years now, I’ve been reading about the oligarchs who have taken $huge advantage of  Citizens United. And dropping little notes about them, right here.

I shouldn’t have to remind any of us but…that’s the Supreme Court 5-4 decision that determined corporations, just like all of us individuals, have the First Amendment right to speak out politically, i.e., spend–unlike all of us individuals–as much money as they want in supporting politicians. That is, in buying political and judicial seats and ignoring the will and views of the citizenry. Citizenry = Us. Citizens United has damaged our democracy.

That last paragraph is my biased interpretation of Citizens United. You can read the Wikipedia definition in the link. (I’m ever so fair, always concerned with the facts of life, no matter how repulsive.)

However, my biased interpretation is actually how Citizens United has been wielded by oligarchs. (And something I never quite understood: oligarchs have always been able to “speak out,” i.e., influence politics via the army of lobbyists they employ to influence politicians. They needed even more power? That was a rhetorical question.)

One promising aspect of Citizens United, though, is how its use and application–creating the multitude of non-profit PACs into which oligarchs have been, without disclosure, pouring $billions in order to buy political seats for their pet servants, oops, I mean politicians, and now, even their very !own! Supreme Court justice–has drawn the piercing attention of our fourth branch of government: journalists, especially investigative journalists.

And that attention has yanked the Citizens United creatures out of their gilded closets and into full view, blinking ferociously in the light of reality.

Because my particular vision is not really panoramic–I see through a microscope, not telescope–my fascination has always been with individual characters. And I’ve noticed a pattern in many of the dragged-out-of-the-closet oligarchs who’ve been portrayed in depth by great journalists. It’s my fairly educated opinion that…they’re nuts. I mean diagnostically crazy.

I’m coming to wonder whether huge wealth can produce a type of complex paranoid psychosis. I don’t think my idea has a clinical term in the DSM V but I invite you to check into this and let me know. And let’s invite the American Psychiatric Association group sitting in perpetual revision of the DSM to come up with a term.

This disease I’m sketching out is an expansion of the more poetic conception called folie à deux, although in the case of some of these cult-like families such as Trump’s, we’d have to call it folie à dix or douze, or whatever, to incorporate the entire family as nuts.

Here are some startling extracts from Jane Mayer’s “Trump’s Money Man: How Robert Mercer, a reclusive hedge-fund tycoon, exploited America’s populist insurgency,” in the March 27, 2017 New Yorker. I pulled them out because, as you’ll see, Robert Mercer, the subject of Mayer’s portrait, is described by associates as presenting attitudes that are, to me, signs of mental illness.

See what you think. I’ve bolded a few of the ominous signs:

[Robert] Mercer is the co-C.E.O. of Renaissance Technologies, which is among the most profitable hedge funds in the country. A brilliant computer scientist, he helped transform the financial industry through the innovative use of trading algorithms…people who know him say that he is painfully awkward socially, and rarely speaks. “He can barely look you in the eye when he talks,” an acquaintance said.

During Bill Clinton’s Presidency, [Nick] Patterson [a former Renaissance employee] recalled, Mercer insisted at a staff luncheon that Clinton had participated in a secret drug-running scheme with the C.I.A…”Bob told me he believed that the Clintons were involved in murders connected to it,” Patterson said. Two other sources told me [Jane Mayer] that, in recent years, they had heard Mercer claim that the Clintons have had opponents murdered.

…Patterson also recalled Mercer arguing that, during the Gulf War, the U.S. should simply have taken Iraq’s oil, “since it was there.” Trump, too, has said that the U.S. should have “kept the oil.” Expropriating another country’s natural resources is a violation of international law. Another onetime senior employee at Renaissance recalls hearing Mercer downplay the dangers posed by nuclear war. Mercer, speaking of the atomic bombs that the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, argued that, outside of the immediate blast zones, the radiation actually made Japanese citizens healthlier….Mercer, who is a proponent of nuclear power, “was very excited about the idea, and felt that it meant nuclear accidents weren’t such a big deal.”

Mercer, for his part, has argued that the Civil Rights Act, in 1964, was a major mistake. According to the one-time Renaissance employee, Mercer has asserted repeatedly that African-Americans were better off economically before the civil-rights movement…He has also said that the problem of racism in America is exaggerated. The source said that, not long ago, he heard Mercer proclaim that there are no white racists in America today, only black racists.

…Patterson clashed with him over climate change; Mercer said that concerns about it were overblown. After Patterson shared with him a scientific paper on the subject, Mercer and his brother, Randall, who also worked at the hedge fund, sent him a paper by a scientist named Arthur Robinson, who is a biochemist, not a climate expert. “It looked like a scientific paper, but it was completely loaded with selective and biased information,” Patterson recalled. The paper argued that, if climate change were real, future generations would “enjoy an Earth with far more plant and animal life.”

Magerman [another associate] told the Wall Street Journal that Mercer’s political opinions “show contempt for the social safety net that he doesn’t need, but many Americans do.” He also said that Mercer wants the U.S. government to be “shrunk down to the size of a pinhead.” Several former colleagues of Mercer’s said that his views are akin to Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand. Magerman told me, “Bob believes that human beings have no inherent value other than how much money they make. A cat has value, he’s said, because it provides pleasure to humans. But if someone is on welfare they have negative value. If he earns a thousand times more than a schoolteacher, then he’s a thousand times more valuable.” Magerman added, “He thinks society is upside down–that government helps the weak people get strong, and makes the strong people weak by taking their money away, through taxes.” He said that this mind-set was typical of “instant billionaires” in finance, who “have no stake in society,” unlike the industrialists of the past, who “build real things.”

Another former high-level Renaissance employee said, “Bob thinks the less government the better. He’s happy if people don’t trust the government. And if the President’s a bozo? He’s fine with that. He wants it to all fall down.”

I see Mercer as a very sick man.



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