What does Robert F. Kennedy Jr’s bid for the US presidency mean for heterodox opponents of the new normal? I ask this question as an Australian citizen outside the matrix of US politics, but within the orbit of the (medical) freedom movement, and our strangely fringe concerns. These include the implications of a biomedical surveillance state that unilaterally announces lockdowns that suspend and destroy civil liberties and mandate vaccines that don’t stop transmission and indeed cause harm (see also here, here, here, here, here, here and here). We may add to this litany of grievances the fact that any opposition, including from credentialed experts, is met with derision and character assassination, thereby obstructing the process of science while insisting we must all, in Orwellian lockstep, ‘follow the science’. Those who declined the ‘vaccine’, or novel gene therapy, issued under emergency use authorisation while still in its trial phase (and thus, by definition, without adequate testing), were vilified and discriminated against. This was authorised and carried out by the state including, disturbingly, by the health system. At the height of the pandemonium, comedian Jimmy Kimmel joked that the unvaccinated should be left to die and, sadly, in Australia, some took it seriously. A subset of second-class citizens—‘the unvaccinated’—lost their jobs and couldn’t enter many public and private spaces, including schools, hospitals, cafés, shops and even churches. It was our fellow citizens, including family and friends, who enforced these rules. Milgram experiment, anybody? Yes, we all just lived it, and thank you, now I know where you stand when the world goes mad. Many concerned citizens who protested this diabolical state of affairs encountered the goon squads, others had their bank accounts suspended and, some were even jailed. High profile dissidents across the world were deplatformed and learned that nobody is ‘too big to fail’. Indeed, it didn’t matter if you were a well-known journalist, cartoonist, statistician, rock and roller, playwright, philosophy professor, scientist, feminist, sportsman, or indeed a nation-state—e.g., Sweden; you were written off, vilified and attacked for daring to question the Covid consensus. The propaganda machine often recycled the same headline starting with “Whatever happened to … [insert name of eminent dissident]?”: John Ioannides, Naomi Wolf, Giorgio Agamben, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Michael Leunig, etc. Each was presented as a genius who had completely lost their mind in relation to Covid, rather than a sane, heterodox critic with a dissenting opinion. That the politicians and media encouraged and abetted this, which amounted to the psychopathologising of critique, is an abomination that stands as a moral stain on almost all so-called liberal-democratic nations. Of course, these “conspiracy theorists” simply had views that fell outside the Overton window. What has changed is that even the formerly liberal, progressive press and the public broadcasters give no quarter to this position; it is rendered either invisible or mad. As erudite critic of the new normal C.J. Hopkins explains:
This global-capitalist-manufactured “reality” is a depoliticized, ahistorical “reality,” which forms an invisible ideological boundary establishing the limits of what is “real.” In this way, [it] (a) conceals its ideological nature, and (b) renders any and all ideological opposition automatically illegitimate, or, more accurately, non-existent. Ideology as we knew it disappears. Political, ethical, and moral arguments are reduced to the question of what is “real” or “factual,” which the GloboCap “experts” and “fact checkers” dictate.The truly astonishing thing about all this invisible totalitarianism—which I have elsewhere called ‘reality by fiat’—is that unless you actively opposed it, you’re unlikely to even know it’s there. Don’t expect the fourth estate or the universities to help make sense of it all. They were bought and paid for some time ago (see here, here, here, here and here), and any dissident within them knows the rules by which consent is manufactured.
HopeWhat Kennedy represents in this bleak and choppy sea of crony-capitalism is hope. Hope for a world better than this. Hope for our children. Hope for the promise of liberal democracy, not the Big Pharma funded drag show that currently passes for it. His formal announcement on 19 April for the Presidency of the United States, and thereby as de facto leader of the West, offers renewed hope for the principles of democracy and liberty, and also for the political institutions that are charged with their enactment. He understands the difference, and this matters. As the founding fathers and mothers of liberalism rightly insisted, the government only protects what is already there, granted by divine right; it does not give—and less still has the right to take—life, liberty or property, including property in the person. In a liberal-democracy, Government is only there to serve this end, not to enforce ideologies or—worse—experimental medicines. Neither does it have the right to dictate speech to suit its own fiscal and power-political interests, nor to terrorise the population with fear, ‘nudging’ or propaganda into submission. For those of us who are appalled by this Orwellian state of affairs, RFK Jr, with his long track record of fighting mega-corporations for people and the environment, represents the possibility of a true statesman at the helm. A Kennedy presidency would return liberty, at least in the US, to its hallowed position as an inalienable right, rather than a privilege given and taken by a corrupt, corporate-state; and here he would set a paradigm shifting example across the West. The US is, after all, still the global hegemony (at least for now). This is a welcome departure, as James Howard Kunstler recently put it, from the “jackals with polished faces”. More than anything, RFK Jr represents categorical opposition to corporate capture that sees Big Ag, Big Pharma, and Big Tech paying for lobbyists,* who in turn buy off politicians who create laws to enforce their products and/or indemnify them. One chilling example in this vast ocean of corruption: more than two thirds of the US Congress cashed a pharmaceutical industry campaign cheque in early 2020. Similarly, many of the world’s regulatory agencies, such as the CDC, or in Australia the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), rely on Big Pharma funding, inevitably compromising their independence. In a recent study published in the British Medical Journal (2022), Maryanne Demasi and colleagues found that in recent decades, “regulatory agencies have seen large proportions of their budgets funded by the industry they are sworn to regulate”. They asked six regulators—in Australia, Canada, the EU, Japan, the UK and the US—questions about funding, transparency and decision making regarding drugs to market. The researchers conclude that, “industry money permeates the globe’s leading regulators, raising questions about their independence, especially in the wake of a string of drug and device scandals”. Out of all the leading regulators, Australia’s TGA received the highest funding from the pharmaceutical industry, to the tune of a whopping 96% of its budget (yes, you read that correctly), which perhaps explains why they are busy covering up vaccine injuries and deaths—and, as we have recently learned, colluding with Twitter via our Department of Home Affairs to silence critics of the government authorised Covid position. Not surprisingly, in 2020–2021 the TGA also approved more than nine of every ten drug company applications. Demasi and colleagues state:
Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) firmly denies that its almost exclusive reliance on pharmaceutical industry funding is a conflict of interest (COI). In response to a query, the agency said, “All fees and charges are prescribed in our legislation. To provide transparency, the TGA fees and charges are published on the TGA website.
CorruptionIn the US, as in Australia and elsewhere in the West, we are now regulated by government organisations with profound conflicts of interest. Again, as RFK Jr passionately lays out, this problem is ubiquitous across food, medicines, consumer products, vaccines, psychiatric meds, environment, tech, military, media, politics, and farming. Pervasive monopolies across these industries effectively throttle accountability and the democratic oversight. These same corporations fund our corporate-media creating an unimpeachable wall of propaganda. In journalist Matt Taibbi’s words, “An all-time media blackout is in effect. We’re experiencing real-time Sovietization”. The “censorship industrial complex” is here. The media is no longer the fourth estate holding power accountable and acting in the public interest, rather it has become an arm of the corporate state policing so-called “misinformation”—including, of course, most critics (see also, the recent Australian case, not reported in the mainstream media, with one exception behind a paywall). This isn’t in fact capitalism but, as Kennedy aptly puts it, “socialism for the rich” who accrue vast wealth through corrupting and controlling regulatory oversight. This is no longer democracy but kleptocracy. RFK Jr’s mission, as he stated at his formal announcement speech, is “to end the corrupt merger of state and corporate power that is threatening a new corporate feudalism in our country”. This is a very big deal, if for no other reason than it may break through the gargantuan wall of propaganda that this merger between corporations, regulators, media and research have created. As he elaborated on Tucker Carlson (notably, Tucker’s last interview) what Americans have—and, by implication, what all of us have—is “… cushy socialism for the rich and … brutal, merciless capitalism for the poor. It keeps us in a state of war, it bails out banks …” In his legal battle for the Hudson River fishing families, on whose behalf he sued big polluters like General Electric, RFK Jr observed that they were fine with free-market capitalism—they had successfully run fishing businesses inter-generationally for three centuries; what they were not fine with was “crony capitalism” in which the mega-corporations buy their way out of ecological and economic consequences. His mission was to clean up the rivers by making the polluters accountable for their mess rather than rendering it an “externality” suffered by others, namely people and wildlife. As he said of his work:
We catch the cheaters, the polluters, and we force you to internalize your costs, the same way you internalize your profits …Kennedy has fought the proxy wars in individual battles with river polluters and mountain-top removers, with pesticide makers and vaccine companies. However, this time he’s going to the heart of the beast where the matrix of power and corruption reside. Kennedy promises the end of kleptocracy and the return of government transparency and accountability. He stands on two key platforms: unity over division and the end of the corporate-state merger. He proposes a most radical ‘experiment’: speaking the truth. As anaesthetist and blogger Dr. Madhava Setty put it:
This isn’t just a campaign. This is a civil response to a coup d’état.This coup Setty refers to is the gradual and now total take-over of the institutions—including the institution of government itself—by corporations and deep-state players outside democratic accountability. As Kennedy notes in an interview with fellow liberal outlier Naomi Wolf (herself unjustly besmirched as a “conspiracy theorist”) this merger of corporation and state used to go by another name: fascism. As author and critic Simon Elmer notes, after forty years of neo-liberalism, we are well and truly on ‘the road to fascism’. It is the default bias of liberals to assume fascism happens “over there” and not in our own “advanced societies”; however, this only shows how out of touch most are. The “state of exception” is the new normal.
JabNot surprisingly, RFK Jr is being cast as the Mad King of the “anti-vaxxers” by the mainstream media (see here, here, and here), eager to discredit his thirty year history in environmental politics. The unstated goal is to present him at war not only with common sense—aka “the science™”—but also with the establishment and his well-known family. Here, they kill two birds with one stone, silencing his critique while assassinating his character. Of course, many on the other side think he’s not anti-vaxx enough (and certainly, no white hat), since, as he has said repeatedly to the resoundingly deaf ears of the mass media, he is not an “anti-vaxxer” (read: persona non grata); rather, he is critical of the toxic adjuvants like thimerosal and aluminium in vaccines, and, relatedly, to the capture of regulatory agencies effectively making it impossible to protect the public. Finally, as a liberal, he is opposed to the abrogation of civil liberties through the imposition of mandates. Consent cannot be given if citizens who decline vaccines are denied access to paid employment, education and civil society, or if they are marked off as second-class citizens for exercising this choice. As Kennedy said recently, he didn’t want to touch the vaccine issue given his extant interests in environmental law and protection. However, a small group of mothers of vaccine-injured children followed him around the countryside attending his talks on the pollution of rivers. Quietly, but persistently, the mothers would say, “If you’re really interested in mercury exposure … you need to look at vaccines”. “I didn’t want to do it,” he says. Finally, one mother, Sarah Bridges, turned up at his house with a trunk full of vaccine studies and said, “I’m not leaving until you read these.” So, he dutifully read the abstracts and was floored by the veritable chasm between what the public thinks the science says and what it actually says (see also here, here and here). As in Australia, despite assurances that thimerosal was removed from childhood vaccines, studies show that it is still present, revealing a divergence between public health messaging and the facts. In the end, Kennedy wrote a book about it: Thimerosal: Let the Science Speak. RFK Jr was unable to ignore these mothers when they said it wasn’t only rivers and fish, but also their own babies who had been poisoned. If he could fight for the river—and, specifically, its restoration from toxicity and big industry polluters—he could fight for these mothers too. As with any true vocation, when it is encountered there is both a calling and a sense of dread; one feels the sacred weight of duty and its shadow. RFK Jr realised he couldn’t dismiss these mothers as the pharma-funded medical establishment and gaslighting governments have. Despite coming from a Democrat family with a pedigree unlike any other and having thirty years of environmental activism under his belt (which, until recently, made him a darling of the liberal press), he too became a “right wing, anti-vaxxer, conspiracy theorist” overnight. He is not picking the low hanging fruit of identity politics and free speech; he’s gone to the heart of the military-industrial, pharma-funded beast. This has and will continue to cost him. But truth has an energy behind it; it always has.
Things worse than deathA man who is prepared to fight for mothers and for rivers—the great givers of life—is himself a great protector of life. This is all the more heroic, given his own protector was killed when he was still a boy. As the extraordinary documentary One Thousand Pictures: RFK’s Last Journey shows, this loss was monumental for the nation too. Photographer Paul Fusco captured evocative images of the thousands of mourners, mostly working class white and black people, who lined the rail tracks to say goodbye as Robert F. Kennedy’s body was transported from New York to Washington D.C. The film combines this footage with contemporary interviews with the same people. It is powerful. “He was a beacon to us—a shining light”, one said. Another said, “It was the end of something, that just hardly began”. As James Howard Kunstler points out:
I think RFK, Jr. sees very clearly the historical moment he represents … He is at least as dangerous to the establishment today as his father and uncle were back in their day. Thus, his bravery in stepping up now, knowing what he knows. At the least, he will drag a set of issues into the political arena that his rivals would prefer to keep out in the cold and dark. He’ll get some assistance from events themselves, which are spooling out fast now.Given his opposition to nothing less than Big Ag, the chemical industry poisoning our soils, rivers, oceans, air and food; Big Energy green washing the violent destruction of nature while pretending to ‘save’ it; Big Pharma from opioids to anti-depressants to vaccines laden with toxic ingredients; Big Tech and its ‘censorship industrial complex’ controlling our newsfeeds and narrative; Big Banks now openly controlling the funds and freezing the bank accounts of those they disagree with; and the war machine, it is hardly surprising that journalists have already begun asking whether he fears assassination. “No, I’m not worried”, he replies emphatically. He has also said repeatedly that there are things worse than death, including the betrayal of one’s own conscience, and the loss of liberty. Like his uncle President John F. Kennedy and father Attorney General and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, RFK Jr is running a long-shot outsider campaign on a progressive platform. His father was killed on the campaign trail in the Ambassador Hotel on 6 June 1968. RFK Jr’s timing is resonant. He filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission in early April and we are now four months into his campaign. He stands exactly in his father’s shoes. As Edward Curtin wrote in OffGuardian,
It has been fifty-five years since Senator Robert F. Kennedy stepped onto the presidential nominating stage to try to mend the massive breach that had opened in American society … The wheel of history has turned and 2023 resembles 1968 in many ways while getting worse in others. The divide in the country remains but has greatly widened. The CIA and the intelligence agencies totally control the mainstream media now. The Pentagon’s budget has increased exponentially. The U.S. wages a savage war against Russia in Ukraine under the blatant lie of defending freedom while supporting Nazis and greatly risking nuclear war. It provokes war with China. Permanent war is government policy with military bases and CIA and special forces all over the world, waging semi-clandestine wars, or maybe just wars that people don’t want to know about. The gap between the rich and the poor has widened while the elites mock working class people as moronic deplorables. The Department of Defence controls the development, manufacturing, clinical testing, supply, production, and distribution of the mRNA vaccines, while the criminal pharmaceutical companies reap obscene profits. Lies are piled upon lies in what amounts to an Orwellian nightmare. And while LBJ and Nixon have been replaced by Joe Biden, the warfare state rolls on.Like his famous uncle and father before him, whose unfulfilled anti-imperialist legacy he continues and potentially completes, RFK Jr is the outlier candidate. He is up against an incumbent president from his own party who has the numbers. On the other hand, he represents profound change and therefore hope for a better future (in an inverse of Lewis’s law, read the comments under any interview with RFK Jr and see evidence of this fact). In her new book, America’s Last President: What the World Lost When It Lost John F. Kennedy, Monika Wiesak comments that the popular representation of him as a playboy “… obscured the depth of what he was trying to achieve and intensity of opposition he faced”. She quotes Bob Dylan’s extraordinary song Murder Most Foul on the assassination of JFK released in 2020: “They killed him once, and they killed him twice”—by which Dylan meant that it was not enough that Kennedy was murdered; his visionary ideas had to perish with him. Hope for these ideas is now resurrected. As Dennis Kucinich put it at RFK Jr’s campaign launch, he is “un-bought and un-bossed” and his candidacy represents a “rendezvous of history and destiny”. Rather than pander, to “all the alchemies of demagoguery”, what RFK Jr proposes is “the America that almost was and yet may be.” * This observational study, which analysed publicly available data on campaign contributions and lobbying in the US from 1999 to 2018, found that the pharmaceutical and health product industry spent $4.7 billion, an average of $233 million per year, on lobbying the US federal government; $414 million on contributions to presidential and congressional electoral candidates, national party committees, and outside spending groups; and $877 million on contributions to state candidates and committees. Contributions were targeted at senior legislators in Congress involved in drafting health care laws and state committees that opposed or supported key referenda on drug pricing and regulation. Article image: Daniel Schwen | licence CC BY SA 4.0