Sometimes it’s hard to see the forest through the trees … particularly when the trees include a belligerent President declaring a national emergency over a fabricated political talking point, and Russian agents allegedly lurking around every corner, at every dinner table, and anywhere else people reject the mainstream media narrative.
But if there ever was a time to climb to the tallest piece of old-growth you can find and gaze out, now would be it.
On February 14, Amazon announced its intention to pull out of the controversial HQ2 deal in New York City. The secret deal, delivering billions of dollars of benefits to Amazon in exchange for the construction of a new headquarters in Long Island, was signed by New York Governor ‘Amazon’ Cuomo, and New York City Mayor (and former progressive) Bill De Blasio without public input or scrutiny. The result was an immediate groundswell of popular opposition amongst unions, organizations, government representatives, and regular people across the state.
The company’s eventual decision to pull out was a bit of a ‘you can’t fire me, I quit!’ situation, the inevitability unavoidable after New York state Senator Michael Gianaris — a vocal critic of the deal — was last week “appointed to an obscure state board where he would be one of three people with veto power over the project.” Either way, Amazon was out.
It is hard to overstate the significance of a grassroots movement defeating the aims of a company like Amazon, a company led by the richest person in the world, maybe ever, Jeff Bezos.
The reaction of mainstream media to this shocking development, to this arrow to the heart of their corporate agenda, has been nothing short of naked, stinking fear. (As well it should be)
Take Bloomberg, reliably stereotypical of its peers, which whined in a tone that allowed the reader to feel the hot tears in the corners of the author’s eyes, “They [De Blasio and Cuomo] didn’t defend the tax breaks as necessary to bring good jobs to a poor neighborhood. They didn’t make hay with a Siena College Research Institute poll conducted in early February showing overwhelming local support for the Amazon deal.”
Perhaps they didn’t defend these things because they are unoriginal talking points which crumble under the slightest scrutiny.
Perhaps they didn’t defend billion of dollars of tax breaks for a company that already doesn’t pay taxes because the public is not buying more giveaways to the 1%.
Perhaps they didn’t defend the poll supposedly showing “overwhelming local support” because it was an intentionally disingenuous and manipulative study, flimsy as a wet tissue when exposed to examination.
Perhaps they didn’t defend the deal’s ability to “bring good jobs to a poor neighborhood” because, as Casey Newton put it at The Verge:
“a promise of 25,000 new jobs sounds much different in 2019 than it would have in 2009. If you’re among the sea of hotel and restaurant workers […] you know you’re likely never going to be qualified for one of the jobs that Amazon is creating in your backyard. Moreover, if you have paid attention to the experience of other global tech capitals, most notably my home of San Francisco, you know that the arrival of high-paying jobs is typically accompanied by an extraordinary rise in rents. The rising cost of living can push homeownership even further out of reach for most workers, and may ultimately send even highly paid workers packing to the exurbs.”
Perhaps they didn’t defend these things because they are indefensible. Put a different way: Amazon doesn’t build communities, it tears them down; it destroys local business, exploits workers, guts economies, and claims the spoils as its own.
Rather than simply follow the lead of Bloomberg, The Washington Post — incidentally, a publication owned by Jeff Bezos — took a lower road. They called a grassroots movement of workers, organizations, local, state, and federal government officials, alongside regular people standing up to one of the most powerful and destructive companies on earth a situation where “democracy becomes dysfunctional.”
If that doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about the Washington Post, then it’s unclear what will. I wonder what type of person doesn’t get sick to their stomach when the country’s preeminent newspaper openly promotes oligarchy as democracy and defines democracy as ‘dysfunction.’
But that’s just the point, and it goes significantly further than New York City, beyond the ability of Amazon to run roughshod.
Things on the immediate horizon, like Universal Healthcare or a Green New Deal, have at times felt like pipe dreams — not because they don’t enjoy huge public support (they do), or because, as the old trope goes, they are unaffordable (imagine, for a start, if companies like Amazon paid taxes), but rather for the simple reason that they are opposed by powerful corporate interests.
This is why the US is called an oligarchy.
It’s also why it is hard to overstate the significance of Amazon’s defeat at the hands of the grassroots.
If Amazon can be defeated, then perhaps so too can the military contractors who bring us perpetual war, the insurance and pharmaceutical companies who bring addiction and death, the Wall Street cronies who game a rigged system, and the oil companies who push the planet to the brink of environmental collapse.
Yes, the President just declared the 32nd active national emergency, one that is unlikely to hold up in court, and, if you ask Rachel Maddow, your neighbor is probably a Russian agent. But look past these trees and see Amazon’s public spanking as an indication of a new type of growth in this forest.