Atlas Clubbed: The Predators and Brutes of America’s Novel Pantheon


Every dog has its day they say, and apparently every vulture, scum devouring bacteria and mangy chicken-coop raider does too if current American conservatism gets to do the honors of bequeathing respectability and the seal of approval. Perhaps the National Geographic Channel shares a portion of the blame too, but America’s extremist right and its subsidiary, its Republican Party hobby horse have done all that was humanly and inhumanly possible to usher in America’s halcyon days of predatory capitalism, the Golden Age of Predation.

Screwing people has always been generally profitable and pervasive enough, always a mainstay of the American landscape, retaining a certain raffish, roguish mythology even. But only recently has one prominent segment of the political system elevated it to the stature of sacred, iconic American value. If there’s a Republican Statue of Liberty the inscription she bears reads: Give us your health insurance bastards, your credit card piranhas, your mortgage charlatans, your behemoth polluters, your corporate hedgehogs, your abusive landlords, your twenty dollar an aspirin hospitals, your shit-kicking hick town tyrants, your water despoiling chemical factory skunks, your underpaying, unforgiving ogre employers, your fly-by-night companies, your financial sharpies, your corporate Bigfoots yearning to be respectable, profitable and unaccountable, and we will embrace you as our dearest constituency.

Underpinning this embrace of the politics of assholedom, the right has discovered or distilled its own ideologies of corruption and legal larcenies, its own high-flown or at least helium-inflated philosophies, such as Ayn Rand’s cartoonish Objectivism, and more august sounding apologias for ruthless predation in the vein of Austrian School Economics or Supply Side. “Free market” the slogan with which the rest are flagellated by the kaleidoscope-eyed ideologues really has nothing to do with classical economics or capitalism but is the right’s bastardized vernacular for a sort of pseudo-Darwinian free for all indemnifying the aggression, mendacity, deceptiveness, dishonesty, coarse acquisitiveness, parsimony, penuriousness and filching habits of the clip artists, pickpockets and cat burglars of the business and corporate class and the fatted one percent. No wonder they and their Republican germ carriers scatter like the undead at the appearance of an effulgent sunbeam when confronted with consumer protection, financial regulation or environmental rules which they denounce as a scourge of Biblical menace, while betraying the bully’s trembling cowardice whenever they do.

The modern brutes retain no inherent physical force or innate power, but rather the acquired clout of brutishness accumulated through the prowess of the garden weasel, the game-rigger, the conniver, the loophole-crawler, the slithering fixer, the politician-protected, the bribe-giver, shoving around their fellow citizens from the safety of the roomy spider hole of the gated community, under the aprons of the lobbying firm or the political action committee and behind their giant corporate rock. The homunculus is a master of the universe in these, our glory days of predation in America. In movie terms, this would be the sequel where the ferret is acting the role of King Kong.

The single Republican raison d’être can essentially be boiled down now to the validation and empowerment of creeps. If there’s a financial institution somewhere that can exploit a contract with print so fine it’s meaning cannot be apprehended by the naked eye nor under any currently available microscope in order to siphon your hard-earned money away, a Republican is always available to champion the right of this all-American paragon of business and apple pie capitalism to do so, in other words, some obstreperous hyena of a Republican politician is there to represent the swindler over the swindled in every case. Republicans have busted the proverbial gut to prevent rules for sensibly transparent ways of selling or trading derivatives, the implosion of which selling and trading engulfed the rest of us in the Great Recession. Calling a derivative a complex financial instrument is similar to calling the long con in The Sting a complex financial instrument.

The company making the product that maims you for life, will always be able to summon its troop of Republican baboons who will appear to defend the sanctity of the product maker, fight for the undermining of all legislative recourse for victims if need be, and most assuredly declare the perfidy of trial lawyers representing victims with Republicans’ patented brand of klutzy Orwellianism. Every dog has its day, and every American predator a Republican defender and extoller of its ideological and American virtue. For every insurance company or medical clinic or telecom operation or corporate colossus or financial institution that can demand inordinate, if not confiscatory amounts of your resources, a squadron of Republican insects will swarm in defense, a preening feudalist Republican hack exercising due diligence on behalf of the economic bully holding you upside down until the money empties out of your pockets.

The history of anti-government fanaticism is all wrapped up no doubt with the imperative to enable and to protect an array of lucrative forms of predation. Small town factory owners don’t cotton to interference from federal safety rules and regulations, the insidious big government preventing them from exposing workers lacking all economic power or leverage against the employer upon whom they must depend for a meager livelihood to injury or harm. It’s all about their liberty of course. The ordinary person’s guarantee to life, liberty and happiness can happily go fuck itself. And never has a pseudo-philosophical flim-flam designed to enshrine the hegemony of state and local peckerwood autocrats been as unpersuasively and smarmily utilized as states’ rights. Predator’s rights more like it. They’ll call it Objectivism or Conservatism or Libertarianism, but what it comes down to when you scrape the fecal varnish away is a rationale for ensuring the sovereignty and unaccountability of accumulated power and wealth, the dominance of the entitled over the little guy and the ordinary American citizen.

One often used to hear the defense of unappetizing and clearly immoral business practices with the pithy phrase, “It’s just business,” which was another way of saying conventional morality has been suspended for the sake of my public respectability and my enfeebled conscience. The counterpart to the right’s project of mainstreaming and normalizing crude predation, of draping brutishness with respectability and ideological and economic “principle,” with falsely enshrining it in “tradition” is the commensurate diminishment of the average citizen, and ordinary worker, what as the ideologues and the mucus encrusted demagogues of the right would call: moochers, takers, and the wretched 47%. Or perhaps, as Goldman Sachs’ slicksters famously have referred to their own customers behind their backs: Muppets. I suppose that if you’re fortunate enough to invest with Goldman-Sachs, Muppet is a backwards endorsement of sorts.

Bobby Kennedy famously quoted Aeschylus on the night Martin Luther King was murdered, words meant to enunciate what all should strive for in the wake of the murder: “To tame the savageness of man, and make gentle the life of this world” No doubt viewing the Greeks as chumps, and rather quaint ones at that today’s Objectivist-Conservative-Libertarian Axis of Euphemism would offer the ideological vision that asks us, “To encourage the savageness of man, and make desperate the life of this world.” Poignant, in its way.

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