By the start of the 21st century US presidential elections had become the supreme bourgeois myth.
They sold “democracy”, called military invasion “humanitarian intervention” and justified drone attacks to “combat terrorism”.
This was the spectacle of democracy, one that every four years renewed a pact with US imperialism and gave it the moral audacity to impose its will on the world.
This was the spectacle of a presidential election. Like Roland Barthe’s bottle of wine selling health and happiness, it sold “freedom and democracy”.
It increasingly looked like a massive commercial, spread over a year or more and given blanket coverage by the capitalist media.
It was the commodification of democracy. Always ‘new and improved’, it had become a glorified soap opera. This surreal show, this exercise in lies and illusions, was near its end.
Social media platforms have been hailed as an opportunity to expand democracy. This is nonsense. They reinforce the hegemony of democratic rhetoric.
Social capitalism both materializes and commodifies democratic ideals and aspirations in ways that strengthen and support globalised neoliberalism.
The contemporary ideological formation of social capitalism fetishises speech, opinion and participation, rather than serving as an opportunity for progressive political and economic change.
The proliferation, distribution, acceleration, and intensification of social media result in a deadlocked democracy incapable of serving as a form for progressive political and economic change.
We think we’re active but our true position, as embodied in the fetish, is passive. This incapacity is linked to the left’s failure to challenge democracy and its unwillingness to reinvent genuine participatory forms.
When democracy appears as both the condition of politics and the solution to the political condition, then neoliberalism can’t be exposed as the violent ideology it is.