The big news over the weekend was the information revealed by the so-called Paradise Papers that connected so many Donald Trump associates to Russia business interests that it seems certain at this point that Trump and his campaign surrogates directly and unequivocally colluded with that hostile nation to sway the U.S. presidential election in 2016.
One would have to believe in the incredible to think otherwise. It’s not fake news. Trump and his cronies are obviously corrupt, indecent and a threat to democracy. It wouldn’t take much at this point for the United States to completely degrade into an authoritarian and criminal state like Russia, and it’s quite possible—more indictments or not—special counsel Robert Mueller or the Democrats can’t prevent that from happening.
The other equally big news was the timid reporting on the event by mainstream media outlets in this country that continue to draw a difference between “Russian oligarchs” and wealthy American business people and remain hindered and unhelpful by their framing stylistics. I would argue that the Russian oligarchy and what should be called the American oligarchy are not only vastly similar but have a direct symbiotic relationship in their corrupt influence in their respective countries and across the globe. Why not just say that?
Are the Russian oligarchy and the American oligarchy the same? Well, not exactly, judging by media accounts of their styles and operations. Each has it’s own way of doing business that is reflective of their countries and government, but I would argue that the American oligarchy—even those members who profess liberal, democratic values, with a few exceptions—have more in common with their Russian counterparts than they do with the American public. It’s simply no longer hyperbole or extremism to argue that worldwide income inequality is a scourge and immoral fact that transcends the borders of countries and is often a product of criminal behavior of, well, the oligarchy.
Everything Trump leads back to Russia
I won’t rehash the Paradise Papers in great detail here. There are a plethora of articles floating around the internet about the growing scandal. Essentially, information was leaked to a German publication, which then shared it with other outlets across the globe, exposing immoral offshore nontaxable accounts and Russian business interests of prominent people, such as U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and major U.S. businesses, such as Facebook and Twitter.
Here’s a breakdown on the Russian oligarchy, which is similar to what has gradually been happening in this country and made open and manifest by the Trump regime. A group of wealthy people, which includes the Koch brothers, Ross, even Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, former CEO of ExxonMobil, and many others have been successfully working to influence the government in favor of their financial interests despite the costs to our society. Other Trump associates, such as former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and Trump campaign advisors George Papadopoulos have worked with Russian operatives to ensure the American oligarchy thrives under the Trump regime.
Papadopoulos has pleaded guilty to lying to federal officials about his Russia ties on behalf of the Trump campaign, which implicated U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the scandal. The plea shows that Sessions lied under oath before a Senate committee when he argued he knew of no Russian connection to the campaign. Papadopoulos actually talked about his Russian connections at a meeting attended by both Sessions and Trump. Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manfort and his associate and former campaign operative Rick Gates also face tax evasion and other charges related with doing business with people with Russia interests.
At this point, in a normal functioning democracy, both Sessions and Ross would have resigned, but that hasn’t happened. Here’s a list prepared by The Guardian of all the Trump associates with tax havens used to avoid paying U.S. taxes, according to leaked information.
If it’s a Russian oligarchy then it’s an American oligarchy, too
I believe one reason that Ross and Sessions haven’t resigned yet is because of the forms and structures in which the mainstream media is presenting this information.Tied to old rhetorical formats, the media continues to report truth and lies as arguments rather than truth and lies. This clouds any given story and makes most people tune out. It also normalizes systemic corruption in the Trump regime. Why would Ross and Sessions resign when the media is just going to report their denials as arguments despite the overwhelming evidence?
Here’s a case in a point. Search the term “Russian oligarchs” on the web, along with the name of any given major mainstream media outlet, and note how many times it has been used through the years. Yet one would be hard pressed to find the term “American oligarchs” among major media outlets. I’m not trying to make an overly fine point here. Language matters. It’s just a fact that major, corporate media outlets are failing to make an obvious comparison between the wealthy here, who are deeply intertwined with public policy that benefits them financially, and the label “oligarch.” They have no problem using the term if it’s in another country as if rich people don’t influence every aspect of American life these days.
Not only do we have right-wing oligarchs—some companies in the tech field do try to use hipster-esque language and frames to pose as liberal—in this country but they have connections with Russian oligarchs clearly identified as oligarchs by media outlets, such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and NBC News. (I stopped checking media outlets after these four.) This is a small smattering of news organizations who refuse to use the type of language that could help people understand the gravity of what this country faces right now.
I’m no longer willing to give the corporate media the benefit of the doubt on the rhetorical frames they choose to deploy to discuss the corruption of the Trump regime. We have a group of extremely rich and politically powerful people in this country doing business with “Russian oligarchs, as they media puts it, and the Trump regime, but somehow they escape truthful language on larger platforms describing their corrupt behavior. For the media, everything the wealthy do to damage this country and its people, every one of their morally obscene acts, is only a political argument, not a question of ethics or truth.
I get it that the media clings to its outdated stylistics out of fear of retaliation and Trump’s bullying tactics, but it needs to change.
The American oligarchy, supported by its pandering stooges, such as Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, who is allowing the oligarchs in the fossil fuel industry to dictate policy on climate change, is as dangerous to the U.S. people as the Russian oligarchy is to the Russian people.