Madonna’s self-defense

L’autodifesa di Madonna: international law is an illusion.

Madonna on Italian news, July 11, 1990. © TG2 Madonna on Italian news, July 11, 1990. © TG2
We’ve reached another important juncture. It’s time to talk about Madonna. Anyone of a certain age regardless of their political persuasion will ultimately have to admit that she herself changed American culture. And remember, religion is the basis of culture. Let’s begin with when she was condemned by the Pope and she responded to him by holding an international press conference looking quite elite in black Chanel and pearls, especially during that gamine period. But she’s far too grand and much too significant for just this one short mention. I’m planting a seed. She’ll be back with us.

In the 19th century, French novelist Balzac wrote, “There are two histories: the official history, lying; then the secret history, where you find the true causes of events." In the 21st century we understand this in real time. The 99% suffer the truth while the 1% coerce them with their lies. Honoré de Balzac also wrote: “Behind every great fortune lies a great crime.” And this: “‪Laws are spider webs through which the big flies pass and the little ones get caught.‬“ Clearly, he knew what the hell he was talking about. I am crazy about the dandy Balzac, the ‪self-proclaimed “elegantologist.” And I find it terribly comforting to know that nothing has changed from all those centuries ago in France, the birthplace of modern democracy.  

Balzac was speaking of elitism. Today we refer to it vaguely as the “one percent.” But here are some numbers that put the cloudy elitism in our country into a clear political perspective. The population of the United States is 328.2 million. There are 4.3 Americans with security clearance. Guess what percentage that is? One percent. Now draw concentric circles. America’s government institutions, its political elite and its “intelligence community” serving them both. The number of security clearances began to soar in 1990.

On July 11, 1990, Madonna gave a world televised press conference from Rome, Italy. The famous American, whose grandparents emigrated from Italy and who was raised a Catholic, was scheduled to perform twice in the Rome area and once in Turin. In 1990, Madonna’s first and only Pepsi commercial set to her hit "Like A Prayer" aired only one time. Because the Vatican threatened a boycott of all Pepsi products because its music video depicted Christian imagery of saints.

While this seems tame almost quaint by today’s standards this was all highly controversial. So much so that the really uptight would not even acknowledge it. Everybody knew about it, rich and poor. We’d just finished the buttoned up Reagan years and American culture was desperate for some fun. Now, thirty years later we’ve confirmation that Madonna really was in the vanguard. An act of publicity on this scale would have been unthinkable then, but passes without much comment today. What’s different is that Madonna’s defense just as it was then remains relevant today. 

You see, the Vatican has always been a elite political institution and a powerful corporation. And as we are seeing more and more now, it acts as sort of an elite quasi-state church.

Here is some of the speech that Madonna Ciccone from Michigan USA delivered to the Vatican in Rome:  

I am an ltalian-American, and I am proud of it. Proud of being an American because it is the country I grew up in, the country that gave me the opportunities to be who I am today and a country that believes in freedom of speech and artistic expression. My show is not a conventional rock show but a theatrical presentation of my music. And, like theatre it asks questions, provokes thought and takes you on an emotional journey. Portraying good and bad, light and dark, joy and sorrow, redemption and salvation. I do not endorse a way of life but describe one, and the audience is left to make its own decisions and judgments. This is what I consider freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom of thought. Every night, before I go onstage, I say a prayer not only that my show will go well but that the audience will watch with an open heart and an open mind and see it as a celebration of love, life and humanity.

Madonna was confidently defending herself because she knew instinctively that international law was not a real thing. It still isn’t. It is political theatre. There is a small group of political elites who rule over the "masses" in societies. Western society. Like the rather dreary Hannah Arendt said, only organized crime and the elite can be attracted to that kind of totalitarian power, everybody else has to be won by propaganda‬. A century before that, Vilfredo Pareto said it, too, but, much more lucid and helpful. That historical change involved the replacement of one elite by another elite, a process which he called "the circulation of elites.” 

The term élite, used in its current socio­logical sense, first appeared in the 1902 book Les systèmes socialistes by Vilfredo Pareto. Its aim was to analyze Marxism as a new form of secular religion. He had used “aristocracy” but ditched that and avoided “ruling class” too. Pareto wanted to capture the idea that a minority will always rule without recourse to outdated notions of heredity or Marxist concepts of class. So he settled on élite, an old French word that has its origins in the Latin eligere, meaning “to select” (the best). This matters. Pareto’s thesis was that elites always rule. There’s always the domination of the minority over the majority. History is just the story of one elite replacing another. The relevance of Pareto’s theories to the world today is key. Simplicity in thought is always the most elegant. This is how so-called modern civilization was organized. But in the 21st century we owe it to ourselves as to understand how it works in real time within the contours of “Western civilization.” Because the threat facing public interest is political elitism. What Madonna faced in Rome in 1990 and then, in her words, in the “fascist state of Toronto,” Canada where she was threatened with arrest the same year. In the 21st century wealth increasingly flows through corporate hands towards a small super-elite, a trend that began in the 1990s. ‪Rather than bringing general affluence in the West, British colonial bounty was creamed off by the elite.

Since Donald Trump became President of the United States we’ve seen the damage that the culture of political elitism has done to the mass media in the world. In particular, news in which the public has a legitimate stake —issues that are important to society— has more and more put the public at risk of hardship. Coronavirus demonstrates the inequities of information sharing in our culture today. This, of course, includes matters of public health and safety. And it spreads. Public interest is not a parochial issue that stops at national borders. It applies at a local, national and international level.

Therefore, everyday we must remind ourselves that all mass media is manufactured, and that we can make choices as a nation not to consume some of it. Because that is the bogus information meant for the 99%, not the essential privileged information for the elite one percent. As Balzac called the former the official history and the latter, the secret history. The media confidently speak of this record as part of some kind of “international law” as if it exists. It does not. International law is not a real thing, but a Potemkin edifice the very wealthy, transnational corporations and the political elite —the one percent— use as a store front for their official cultural history of lies while the 99% of us percent suffer the very real consequences of a secret cultural history. The edifice of authority.

Madonna intuitively understood in 1990 the political theatre. Thirty years later we’re finally catching up to her. That America’s institutions, its political elite and its “intelligence community” serving them both held privileged information, such as the Vatican is an arm of the very wealthy, corporations and the political elite—the one percent. Privileged information was the crux of Madonna’s self-defense. That privileged information is the basis of our culture in the West, meaning the Five Eyes intelligence alliance of America, Great Britain, New Zealand, Austria and Canada. In particular, culture is the CIA’s number one vehicle. And the CIA appears to be a vassal for British elitism in America. Madonna is the cultural Golden Fleece. Follow her career, especially British influence of it. In 1983, she made a public appearance on mass culture TV for the first time on American Bandstand and when the host of the Saturday afternoon dance show Dick Clark asked her about her plans for future, she simply said, “to rule the world," without hesitation. ‬This is possible with culture. Look at Christianity. 

Modern Anglo-Saxon culture, at least at first glance, bears a striking resemblance to Christianity. “To govern is to believe,” wrote Machiavelli. In fact, the whole of Western society is based on pretense, the ability to “make people believe.”  So-called “international law” is a make believe thing. Have any of the Anglophone countries ever been tried for war crimes?

During this pause sanitaire, we have the opportunity to dredge up and discard old patterns based on the misuse of power and authority. Let’s go back to 1990 and Madonna in Rome. She ushered in the last three decades then. In fact, Madonna is probably the mother (pun intended) of modern British military-intelligence strategy. The British elite are cultural grifters.

When somebody finally decides to publicly call out and confront the invisible enemy that threatens us all, I am nearly certain it will be British elitism. You guys should ask Madonna. International law is an illusion.

Le Club est l'espace de libre expression des abonnés de Mediapart. Ses contenus n'engagent pas la rédaction.