Michael Parenti

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Ideological orthodoxy so permeates the plutocratic culture, masquerading as "pluralism," "democracy," and the "open society," that it is often not felt as indoctrination. The worst forms of tyranny are those so subtle, so deeply ingrained, so thoroughly controlling as not even to be consciously experienced. So, there are Americans who are afraid to entertain contrary notions for fear of jeopardizing their jobs, but who still think they are "free."

Michael Parenti (born 30 September 1933) is an American political scientist, historian and media critic.


  • Our fear that Communism might someday take over most of the world blinds us to the fact that anti-communism already has.
  • In every class society that's ever existed, the ruling element does not rule nakedly. They always adorn their rule with myths, themes and symbols to justify their position at the apex of the social pyramid.
  • Someone once said that Margaret Thatcher satisfied the average Englishman's longing for the perfect dominatrix. No doubt about it, she could deliver pain. The Iron Lady should best be remembered as the Leather Lady. Indeed, today Thatcherism leaves its dreary imprint not only on the Conservative Party but---thanks also to Tony Blair---on a Labor Party that accepts most of her regressive policies.
    • "Requiem for a Dominatrix" (2013)
  • For years the Dalai Lama was on the payroll of the CIA, an agency that has perpetrated killings against rebellious workers, peasants, students, and others in countries around the world. His eldest brother played an active role in a CIA-front group. Another brother established an intelligence operation with the CIA, which included a CIA-trained guerrilla unit whose recruits parachuted back into Tibet to foment insurgency. The Dalai Lama was no pacifist. He supported the U.S./NATO military intervention into Afghanistan, also the 78 days' bombing of Yugoslavia and the destruction of that country.
    • "The Nobel Peace Prize for War" (2014)
  • In sum, the Nobel Peace Prize often has nothing to do with peace and too much to do with war. It frequently sees "peace" through the eyes of the western plutocracy. For that reason alone, we should not join in the applause.
    • "The Nobel Peace Prize for War" (2014)
  • Nations that chart a self-defining course, seeking to use their land, labor, natural resources, and markets as they see fit, free from the smothering embrace of the US corporate global order, frequently become a target of defamation. Their leaders often have their moral sanity called into question by US officials and US media, as has been the case at one time or another with Castro, Noriega, Ortega, Qaddafi, Aristide, Milosevic, Saddam Hussein, Hugo Chavez, and others.
    • North Korea: "Sanity" at the Brink (2009)
  • After years of encirclement and repeated rebuffs from Washington, years of threat, isolation, and demonization, the Pyongyang leaders are convinced that the best way to resist superpower attack and domination is by developing a nuclear arsenal. It does not really sound so crazy. As already mentioned, the United States does not invade countries that are armed with long-range nuclear missiles (at least not thus far). Having been pushed to the brink for so long, the North Koreans are now taking a gamble, upping the ante, pursuing an arguably “sane” deterrence policy in the otherwise insane world configured by an overweening and voracious empire.
    • North Korea: "Sanity" at the Brink (2009)

Democracy for the Few (2010 [1974]), sixth edition[edit]

The close relationship between politics and economics is neither neutral nor coincidental. Large governments evolve through history in order to protect large accumulations of property and wealth.
The slums are not the problem, they are the solution; they are the way capitalism deals with the surplus people of a market economy.
  • It may come as a surprise to some academics, but there is a marked relationship between economic power and political power.
    • Preface to the Sixth Edition, p. viii
  • The close relationship between politics and economics is neither neutral nor coincidental. Large governments evolve through history in order to protect large accumulations of property and wealth.
    • Chapter 1, p. 4
  • America represents more than just an economic system; it is an entire cultural and social order, a plutocracy, a system of rule that is mostly by and for the rich. Most universities and colleges, publishing houses, mass circulation magazines, newspapers, television and radio stations, professional sports teams, foundations, churches, private museums, charity organizations, and hospitals are organized as corporations, ruled by boards of trustees (or directors or regents) composed overwhelmingly of affluent business people. These boards exercise final judgement over all institutional matters.
    • Chapter 3, p. 33
  • Among the institutions of plutocratic culture, our educational system looms as one of the more influential purveyors of dominant values. From the earliest school year, children are taught to compete individually rather than work cooperatively for mutual benefit. Grade-school students are fed stories of their nation's exploits that might be more valued for their inspirational nationalism than for their historical accuracy. Students are instructed to believe in America's global virtue and moral superiority and to hold a rather uncritical view of American politico economic institutions.
    • Chapter 3, p. 35
  • Ideological orthodoxy so permeates the plutocratic culture, masquerading as "pluralism," "democracy," and the "open society," that it is often not felt as indoctrination. The worst forms of tyranny are those so subtle, so deeply ingrained, so thoroughly controlling as not even to be consciously experienced. So, there are Americans who are afraid to entertain contrary notions for fear of jeopardizing their jobs, but who still think they are "free."
    • Chapter 3, p.37
  • “Individualism” in the untied States refers to privatized ownership, consumption and recreation. You are individualist in that you are expected to get what you can for yourself and not be too troubled by the problems faced by others. This attitude, considered inhuman in some societies, is labeled approvingly as “ambition” in our own and is treated as a quality of great social value.
    • Chapter 3, p.37
  • Economically deprived groups are seen as a threat because they want more, and more for the have-nots might mean less for the haves.
    • Chapter 3, p. 38
  • The desire to "make it," even at the expense of others, is not merely a wrong-headed at attitude but a reflection of the material conditions of capitalist society wherein no one is ever really economically secure except the superrich.
    • Chapter 3, p. 39
  • It is ironic that people of modest means sometimes become conservative out of a scarcity fear bred by the very capitalist system they support.
    • Chapter 3, p. 44
  • Actually, the New Deal's central dedication was to business recovery rather than social reform.
    • Chapter 5, p. 71
  • The rich have grown richer, but their tax rate has declined. The poor have grown poorer, but their taxes have increased.
    • Chapter 6, p. 81
  • Twelve states in the Great Plains have a wind energy potential greater then the electric use of our entire nation.
    • Chapter 7, p. 118
  • Capitalism's modus operandi is to produce and sell an ever expanding supply of goods and services for ever greater profits. But the earth is finite. So is its ability to absorb wastes and toxins. While food yields shrink, the world's population grows 90 million a year and the planet's life support systems move closer to catastrophe. An ever expanding capitalism and a fragile, finite ecology appear to be on a calamitous collision course.
    • Chapter 7, pp. 117
  • The trick is to steal big.
    • Chapter 8, p. 127
  • The police confront dangers and social miseries of a kind most of us can only imagine. They deal with the waste products of a competitive corporate society: the ill-fed, the ill-housed, the desperate, and the defeated. The slums are not the problem, they are the solution; they are the way capitalism deals with the surplus people of a market economy. And for all they cost the taxpayer in crime, police and welfare, the slums remain a source of profit for certain speculators, arsonists, realtors, big merchants, and others.
    • Chapter 8
  • Even though the crime rate has dropped in recent years, the United States has more police per capita then any other nation in the world.
    • Chapter 10, p. 173
  • The two party electoral system performs the essential function of helping to legitimate the existing social order.
    • Chapter 11, p. 179
  • Those who control the wealth of this society have an influence over political life far in excess of their number.
    • Chapter 12, p. 203
  • There is a century-old saying, "The dollar votes more times than the man."
    • Chapter 13, p. 222
  • The peculiar danger of executive power is that it executes.
    • Chapter 14, p. 259
  • Conservatives insist that government should be "run more like a business." One might wonder how that could be possible, since government does not market goods and services for the purpose of capital accumulation.
    • Chapter 15, p. 267
  • There is no such thing as unbiased or objective reporting of news. All reports and analyses are selective and inferential to some inescapable degree - all the more reason to provide a wider ideological spectrum of opinions and not let one bias predominate. If we consider censorship to be a danger to our freedom, then we should not overlook the fact that the media are already heavily censored by those who own or advertise in them. The very process of selection allows the politico-economic interests of the selector to operate as a censor.
    • Chapter 10 , p. 177
  • The American two-party electoral system, with its ballyhoo and hoopla, its impresarios and stunt artists, is the greatest show on earth. Campaign time is show time, a veritable circus brought into our living rooms via television as a form of entertainment. The important thing is that the show must go on - because it is more than just a show. The two-party system electoral social order. It channels and limits political expression, and blunts class grievances. It often leaves little time for the real issues because it gives so much attention to the contest per se who will run? who is ahead? who will win the primaries? who will win the election? It provides the form of republican government with little of the substance. It fives the plutocratic system of appearance of popular participation while being run by and for a select handful of affluent contestants.
    • Chapter 11, p. 179
  • It is not Socialism that subverts democracy, but democracy that subverts capitalism.
    • Chapter 17, p. 320
  • There is a tradition of popular struggle in the United States that has been downplayed and ignored. It ebbs and flows but never ceases. Moved by a combination of anger and hope, ordinary people have organized, agitated, demonstrated, and engaged in electoral challenges, civil disobedience, strikes, sit-ins, takeovers, boycotts, and sometimes violent clashes with the authorities - for better wages and work conditions, a safer environment, racial and gender justice, and peace and nonintervention abroad. Against the heaviest odds, they have suffered many defeats but won some important victories, forcible extracting concessions and imposing reforms upon resistant rulers.
    • Chapter 17, p. 320
  • Democracy is something more than a set of political procedures. To be worthy of its name, democracy should produce substantive outcomes that advance the health and well-being of the people.
    • Chapter 17, p. 320
  • American socialism cannot be modeled on the former Soviet Union, China, Cuba, or other countries with different historical, economic, and cultural developments.
    • Chapter 17, p. 334
  • There is nothing sacred about the existing system.All economic and political institutions are contrivances that should serve the interests of the people. When they fail to do so, they should be replaced by something more responsive, more just, and more democratic. Marx said this, and so did Jefferson. It is a revolutionary doctrine, and very much an American one.
    • Chapter 17, p. 335

The Assassination of Julius Caesar: A People's History of Ancient Rome (2003)[edit]

  • Caesar’s sin, I shall argue, was not that he was subverting the Roman constitution—which was an unwritten one—but that he was loosening the oligarchy’s overbearing grip on it. Worse still, he used state power to effect some limited benefits for small farmers, debtors, and urban proletariat, at the expense of the wealthy few.
    • Introduction
  • Here is a story of latifundia and death squads, masters and slaves, patriarchs and subordinated women, self-enriching capitalists and plundered provinces, profiteering slumlords and urban rioters. Here is a struggle between the plutocratic few and the indigent many, the privileged versus the proletariat, featuring corrupt politicians, money-driven elections, and the political assassination of popular leaders. I leave it to the reader to decide whether any of this might resonate with the temper of our own times.
    • Introduction
  • The writing of history has long been a privileged calling undertaken within the church, royal court, landed estate, affluent town house, government agency, university, and corporate-funded foundation.
    • Ch. 1
  • Those who think Roman slavery was such a benign institution have not explained why fugitive slaves were a constant problem. Owners did not lightly countenance the loss of valuable property. They regularly used chains, metal collars, and other restraining devices. Slaves who fled were hunted down and returned to irate masters who were keen to inflict a severe retribution.
    • Ch. 1
  • Like most other people, Gibbon tended to perceive reality in accordance with the position he occupied in the social structure. As a gentleman scholar, he produced what elsewhere I have called "gentlemen's history," a genre heavily indebted to an upper class ideological perspective. In 1773, we find him beginning a work on his magus opus, A History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, while settled in a comfortable town hohuse tended bt half-a-dozen servants. Being immersed in what he called the "decent luxuries," and saturated with his own upper-class prepossession, Edward Gibbon was able to look kindly upon ancient Rome's violently acquisitive aristocracy. He might have produced a much different history had he been a self-educated cobbler, sitting in a cold shed, writing into the wee hours after a long day of unrewarding toil. No accident that the impoverished laborer, even if literate, seldom had the agency, agency to produce scholarly tomes.
    • Ch. 1
  • Throughout the ages, in keeping with their ideological proclivities, gentlemen historians have tended to dismiss the populares of the Roman Republic as self aggrandizing demagogues who affronted constitutional principles by encroaching upon the Senate's dominain.
    • Ch. 4
  • While unsparingly praised by generations of classicists for his principled ways, Cicero was often an unprincipled opportunist and dissembler. In 50 b.c., for example, with Caesar's fame and power ascendant, he persuaded the senate to decree a thanksgiving service in Caesar's honor, and himself delivered a hypocritical panegyric - which he privately recanted shortly thereafter in a letter to Atticus:"I was not exactly proud of my palinode. But goodnight to principle, sincerity and honor!"
  • Ch. 4

Dirty truths (1996), first edition[edit]

  • Conservatives are fond of telling us what a wonderful, happy, prosperous nation this is. The only thing that matches their love of country is the remarkable indifference they show toward the people who live in it.
    • 1 POLITICS AND ISSUES, Hidden Holocaust,USA, p. 2
  • The dirty truth is that the rich are the great cause of poverty.
    • 1 POLITICS AND ISSUES, Creating The Poor, p. 21
  • The dirty truth is that many people find fascism to be not particularly horrible.
    • 1 POLITICS AND ISSUES, Fascism In a Pinstriped Suit, p. 32
  • Every ruling class has wanted only this: all the rewards and none of the burdens. The operational code is: we have a lot; we can get more; we want it all.
    • 1 POLITICS AND ISSUES, Rollback, p. 46
  • Revolutions are not push button affairs; rather, they evolve only if there exists a reservoir of hope and grievance that can be galvanized into popular action.
    • 1 POLITICS AND ISSUES, Making The World Safe For Hypocrisy, p. 64
  • The real danger we face is not from terrorism but what is being done under the pretext of fighting it.
    • 1 POLITICS AND ISSUES, The Terrorism Hype, p. 81
  • Conservatives have nothing against incumbency when it is their people who are filling the slots.
    • 1 POLITICS AND ISSUES, Term Limits: Trick or Treat?, p. 92
  • To complain about how the media are dominated by liberals, Limbaugh has an hour a day on network television, an hour on cable, and a radio show syndicated by over 600 stations.
    • 2 MEDIA AND CULTURE, The "Liberal Media" Myth, p. 98
  • Union busting has become a major industry with more than a thousand consulting firms teaching companies how to prevent workers from organizing and how to get rid of existing unions.
    • 2 MEDIA AND CULTURE, Giving Labor The Business, p. 122
  • Maintaining silence about a dirty truth is another way of lying, a common practice in high places.
    • 2 MEDIA AND CULTURE, The Invisible Bloodbaths, p. 132
  • Russia became a juicy chunk of the Third World, with immense reserves of cheap labor, a vast treasure of natural resources, and industrial assets to be sold off at giveaway prices.
    • 2 MEDIA AND CULTURE, Yeltsin's Coup And The Medias Alchemy, p. 140
  • You will have no sensation of a leash around your neck if you sit by the peg. It is only when you stray that you feel the restraining tug.
    • 2 MEDIA AND CULTURE, Some Call It Censorship, p. 150
  • The media have been tireless in their efforts to suppress the truth about the gangster state.
    • 3 CONSPIRACY: PHOBIA AND REALITY, The JFK Assassination I, p. 159
  • To make the world safe for those who own it, politically active elements of the owning class have created a national security state that expends billions of dollars and enlists the efforts of vast numbers of people.
    • 3 CONSPIRACY: PHOBIA AND REALITY, The JFK Assassination II: p. 174
  • Archbishop Romero of El Salvador was a member of the Salvadoran aristocracy. He could not have risen to the top of the church hierarchy otherwise. But after he began voicing critical remarks about the war and concerned comments about the poor, he was assassinated.
    • 3 CONSPIRACY: PHOBIA AND REALITY, The JFK Assassination II: p. 189
  • One does not have to be a Marxist to know there is something very wrong in this society.
    • 4 POLITICAL THEORY AN CONSCIOUSNESS, Political Science Fiction, p. 231
  • When change threatens to rule, then the rules are changed.
    • 5 MISCELLANY AND MEMORABILIA, Struggles in Academe: A Personal Account, p. 248
  • In the end I created a career of my own, concentrating on my writing and lecturing, reaching larger audiences than I would had I ended up with tenure and a full teaching load. It was Virginia Woolf who said that it is terrible to be frozen out of a sacred tradition-but even more terrible to be frozen into it.
    • 5 MISCELLANY AND MEMORABILIA, Struggles in Academe: A Personal Account, p. 252

Blackshirts and Reds (1997)[edit]

  • Fascism historically has been used to secure the interests of large capitalist interests against the demands of popular democracy. Then and now, fascism has made irrational mass appeals in order to secure the rational ends of class domination.
    • Table of Contents, Fascism
  • Some writers stress the "irrational" fearures of fascism. By doing so, they over look the rational politico-economic functions that fascism performed. Much of politics is the rational manipulation of irrational symbols. Certainly, this is true of fascist ideology, whose emotive appeals have served a class-control function.
    • p. 11
  • Fascism is a false revolution. It cultivates the appearance of popular politics and a revolutionary aura without offering a genuine revolutionary class content. It propagates a "New Order" while serving the same old moneyed interests. Its leaders are not guilty of confusion but of deception. That they work hard to mislead the public does not mean they themselves are misled.
    • p. 17
  • The overthrow of communism gave a green light to the unbridled exploitative impulses of Western corporate interests. No longer needing to convince workers that they live better than their counterparts in Russia, and no longer constrained by a competing system, the corporate class is rolling back the many gains that working people in the West have won over the years. Now that the free market, in its meanest form, is emerging triumphant in the East, so will it prevail in the West.
    • p. 58
  • Having never understood the role that existing communist powers played in tempering the worst impulses of Western capitalism and imperialism, and having perceived communism as nothing but an unmitigated evil, the left anticommunists did not anticipate the losses that were to come. Some of them still don't get it.
    • p. 58
  • During the years of Stalin's reign, the Soviet nation made dramatic gains in literacy, industrial wages, health care, and women's rights. These accomplishments usually go unmentioned when the Stalinist era is discussed. To say that "socialism didn't work" is to ignore that it did. In Eastern Europe, Russia, China, Mongolia, North Korea, and Cuba, revolutionary communism created a life for the mass of people that was far better than the wretched existence they had endured under feudal lords, military bosses, foreign colonizers, and Western capitalists. The end result was a dramatic improvement in the living conditions for hundreds of millions of people on a scale never before or since witnessed in history.
    • pp. 84-85
  • Putting an end to the population explosion will not of itself save the ecosphere, but not ending it will add greatly to the dangers the planet faces. The environment can sustain a quality of life for just so many people.
    • p. 155

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