The Fallacies of Neoliberal Protest
This post is an amended version of remarks read at a rally organized by Cornell University’s Black Students United (BSU) on September 23, 2016. Students gathered to protest the recent police shootings of Tyree King, Terence Crutcher, and Keith Lamont Scott.

Sisters and brothers, YOUR opposition to racist state terror is a major threat to the normal functioning (and thus the hegemony) of the neoliberal regime. To neutralize this threat and destabilize the most rebellious segments of the population, the corporate power structure aggressively propagates certain false assumptions among the public.

Let’s examine these fallacies:

Fallacy Number One: Dialogue and Awareness

The managers of the status quo hate resistance. So they try to guide any dissent that arises into “safe” channels. You will notice a proliferation of forums, discussions, and meetings organized by system administrators and devoted to “dialogue” and “awareness.” The premise of such efforts is that the problem of racial unrest stems from misunderstandings among rational and well-meaning parties. Thus communication and moral suasion—rather than pressure politics—is the answer.

Fallacy Number Two: The Appeal to Authority

In our technocratic society, we are conditioned to believe that experts and officeholders hold the answers to social problems. Supposedly these professionals are able to mediate between contending groups and interests. We are taught to endlessly petition established authorities for relief, never realizing that such gatekeepers are themselves instruments of the status quo.

Fallacy Number Three: The Myth of the Disembodied Voice

Part of capitalism’s response to grassroots opposition is to assure the distressed that their “voice” is heard. That the authorities who “hear” you also enable your brutalization is immaterial. The point is to convince you of your continued stake in the system. It is to guide you toward the politics of representation and away from the politics of resistance.

Of course, there are other fallacies employed by the oppressor to confuse the oppressed. The fallacy of inclusion v. transformation, for example. Or the fallacy of “diversity” v. genuine antiracism. We are taught to be patriotic, to be patient, to strive to embody the very values of peace and goodwill that this society defiles.

These and other myths only perpetuate the system. They leave intact our society’s basic power relations. And they cause us to police ourselves and to seek interpersonal reconciliation rather than confront structural racism and oppression.

Todd Starnes is a piece of work.

For those of you who don’t know, good for you, he’s not worth your time and I’m sorry I’m introducing this asshole into your life.

Starnes is a social conservative commentator on Fox News who gets more attention than average on their website.  Almost any time he gets a story, he gets his name on the headline.  The screenshot below from today’s website is a pretty typical example of the deference Fox gives him.

So let’s talk about his article today: three cake decorators from a Georgia Wal-Mart refused, numerous times, to decorate a “thin blue line” cake for a police officer’s retirement party.

Here’s the relevant context and a few highlights:

The police officer’s daughter went to the Walmart on Willow Drive on Sept. 22 to order a flag for her father’s retirement party. He was leaving the force after 25-years on the job. 

She showed the bakers a photograph of the police officer’s flag - the black and white version of Old Glory with a blue line. 

“One of the bakers told me the design could be perceived as racist and nobody feels comfortable decorating the cake,” the police officer’s daughter told me. 

As an alternative, she suggested a chocolate-frosted cake with a horizontal, frosted blue line. But that design was also rejected by Walmart’s cake decorator.

“She said, ‘I don’t feel comfortable doing this,’” the cop’s daughter told me. “I asked her, ‘Is there something wrong with cops?’”

After being rejected for a third time, the 21-year-old told the bakers, “I’ll find another bakery, thank you.”

A friend of the family posted an item about the incident on Facebook and it wasn’t long before the Walmart store manager called the police officer’s wife and daughter — and apologized. 

“He said he was so sorry,” the daughter told me. “He offered to make the cake free of charge and he gave me a $50 gift card.”

A Walmart corporate spokesperson confirmed most of the story.

“Our goal is to always take care of customers,” the spokesperson told me. “But, sometimes we misstep.We’re glad we were able to connect with the family to apologize and make this right.”

Walmart did not say if one of their associates called the cake racist.

“I can confirm an associate made a mistake that has since been corrected for the customer,” the spokesperson told me.

So how did Walmart right their wrong? 

The manager offered to make and decorate a new cake. But there was just one problem — the cake decorators refused to comply.

“So the manager told me that he would decorate it — but it looked terrible,” the police officer’s daughter said. “It doesn’t look professional.”

“I work in retail,” the officer’s daughter told me. “If I didn’t want to deal with a customer — and said ‘No’ — I would get fired.”

Walmart needs to make this right and they can start by delivering a professionally decorated cake to the police officer’s family.

The three cake decorators need to be told: either decorate the cake or be fired. 

Just because Walmart is the home of low prices, doesn’t mean they have to hire a bunch of low class, anti-cop bigots.

The delicious irony is that Starnes here is one of the most vehement defenders of Christian bakers who refuse to bake and decorate cakes for gay weddings.  He’s published in support of Kern’s Bake Shop in Texas, Sweet Cakes by Melissa in Oregon, and Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado.  He demands that the bakers there be recognized their ability to deny business based on their values.

He also has supported individuals who have lost their jobs over their exercise of their beliefs: a Macy’s store detective in New York City, a high school football coach in Washington State, and a firefighter in Atlanta, Georgia.  Starnes believes these people ought to be able to live and express their beliefs with full immunity to any consequence.

But those who oppose abuses by police, or don’t support Trump, don’t get that privilege: they must serve, or be fired.  For those like Starnes, freedom is only for people who share his values: all others must bend the knee to his self-proclaimed moral superiority. Such is not freedom; it is rank hypocrisy and ugly bigotry.

As small as my voice is compared to Starnes’s, I simply refuse to let his inconsistencies and his ignorance go unchallenged. The answer is not force and punishment: it is freedom and choice.

Ironically, the woman did the right thing: after being rebuffed, she planned to take her business elsewhere.  Free market!  Voluntary association!  Non-coercion!   Problem solved!  She would have taken her dollar and spent it elsewhere.  That should have been the end of the whole story and it never needed to blow up into a national discussion.  But Starnes now has an axe to grind; the same hateful axe he denounces the LGBT community for wielding against his fellow Christians.

Voluntary association and free markets give us the power to bury this bitter hatchet and seek peaceful resolutions to our needs and problems. Enslaving our fellow man against his or her will to fulfill our desires is wrong in *all* cases, not just when our friends are the victims.

That’s why I’m a libertarian.

“[I]t is actually more expensive to be poor than not poor. If you can’t afford the first month’s rent and security deposit you need in order to rent an apartment, you may get stuck in an overpriced residential motel. If you don’t have a kitchen or even a refrigerator and microwave, you will find yourself falling back on convenience store food, which—in addition to its nutritional deficits—is also alarmingly overpriced. If you need a loan, as most poor people eventually do, you will end up paying an interest rate many times more than what a more affluent borrower would be charged. To be poor—especially with children to support and care for—is a perpetual high-wire act.”

It Is Expensive to Be Poor | The Atlantic

in some states if you work two jobs even if they’re both only 5 hours a week at minimum wage you don’t qualify for snap benefits [food card] because you have “multiple sources of income.” tell me again how these laws are meant to make sure only real poor people get benefits … 

The self-expression promoted in Pride parades has been increasingly facilitated by corporate sponsors. Anyone who has attended a major Pride event in recent years has felt the heavy presence of big businesses: Wells Fargo, TD Bank, Walmart, and Diet Coke, to name a few. According to Project Queer, more than half of the 253 participants in the 2015 Chicago Pride Parade were corporations, businesses, and banks. In comparison, LGBTQ groups represented less than 10% of the participants.

Not only is it irresponsible to corporatize Pride, many of the sponsorships promote products or lifestyles that are inaccessible or insensitive to the LGBTQ community across the United States. In New York, the Pride Parade runs down 5th Avenue in Manhattan, passing mainly high-profile shops and neighborhoods fitting of high-figure salaries. The Guardian notes that many of San Francisco Pride’s biggest sponsors, like Facebook and Google, contribute to the growing income inequality in Silicon Valley, while members of the LGBTQ community struggle with homelessness in skyrocketing numbers.

And The Chicagoist points out that alcohol companies frequently sponsor Pride events—yet over 30% of the LGBTQ community is projected to struggle with drug and alcohol addiction, a rate three times higher than the general population.

Others feel unsafe by support from big businesses. Members of the LGBTQ community have rallied against Wells Fargo’s sponsorship in particular, criticizing the bank’s history of investing in private prisons that incarcerate LGBTQ persons, especially queer and trans people of color, at disproportionate rates.

—  The Capitalist Appropriation Of Gay Pride | Annie Utterback for The Establishment