How Trump will use the Las Vegas shooting

Dan Glazebrook
Dan Glazebrook is a freelance political writer who has written for RT, Counterpunch, Z magazine, the Morning Star, the Guardian, the New Statesman, the Independent and Middle East Eye, amongst others. His first book “Divide and Ruin: The West’s Imperial Strategy in an Age of Crisis” was published by Liberation Media in October 2013. It featured a collection of articles written from 2009 onwards examining the links between economic collapse, the rise of the BRICS, war on Libya and Syria and 'austerity'. He is currently researching a book on US-British use of sectarian death squads against independent states and movements from Northern Ireland and Central America in the 1970s and 80s to the Middle East and Africa today.
How Trump will use the Las Vegas shooting
Last weekend, the world witnessed the deadliest gun massacre in modern US history. But while coverage of the horrific events has been wall-to-wall, there has been minimal discussion of how the government could seize this moment to advance its agenda.

That’s the question I seek to address in this article.

To answer it, it is essential to be clear on what Trump’s agenda actually is. On the domestic level, there are two main aspects to this agenda: Firstly, the institution of a police state. And secondly, propping up corporate profits by any means necessary, in particular, through plundering the public sector.

On the first, Trump has made his plans for the police very clear. He wants to step up their transformation into a paramilitary force; and he wants to provide them with complete impunity, by stripping whatever meager semblance of accountability currently exists.

Let’s just look at how this agenda is advancing so far. In February, Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions vowed to “pull back”on investigations and lawsuits against the police. He soon made good on this promise when the Justice Department refused to prosecute police over the death of Alton Sterling, who was shot dead at point-blank range while pinned immobile to the floor. Then, in a speech to Chicago police in July, Trump said he wanted police to be freer to rough up prisoners, explicitly saying they should feel free to smash their prisoner’s heads on the side of the car as they put them inside their vehicles.

And on 28th August, Trump issued an executive order repealing Obama-era restrictions on the supply of military equipment from the Pentagon to the police. These restrictions were already pretty limited, and some were relatively easy to get around, but at least they prevented police from obtaining, for example, grenade-launchers, bayonets, and “tracked armored vehicles” (tanks to you and me). All of this will now be made available to the police, ramping up their transformation into a fully militarized operation, essentially modeled on an occupying army.

This is not about tackling crime or terrorism so much as it is about preparing the police to deal with the social fallout from Trump’s other policies. This year’s budget was an indication of the wholesale destruction of social provisions now underway - a destruction which coincides with permanent and growing mass unemployment and job insecurity. Robots are expected to take 47 percent of existing US jobs over the next 20 years. But at the same time, programs to help those without jobs or on low incomes to survive, such as food aid and Medicaid, are being dismantled. This year’s budget proposed cuts of $800 billion to Medicaid over the next 10 years, and over $270 billion in cuts from welfare, including almost £200 billion from nutritional assistance. All of this will inevitably create serious social upheaval - and this would be so even if there were not another financial collapse looming, which there almost certainly is. Trump’s job is to ensure the police are prepared to deal with the massive fallout from all this, in the most brutal way possible.

From this point of view, it is clear how the Las Vegas attack could easily be utilized to build on this agenda. I would expect us to start hearing arguments very soon about how this attack demonstrates that more armed police are necessary, how they need much better weapons, greater powers, and on and on. It’s about getting the police tooled up and legally unbound ready for the next wave of crisis.

The second aspect of Trump’s domestic agenda is propping up corporate profits by any means necessary, and especially through the use of public funds. So, on the campaign trail, for example, there was a lot of talk of Trump’s $1 trillion investment program, based on luring private capital to finance new infrastructure with the promise of using public funds to rent it back from those companies forever after. Essentially the aim is to guarantee a permanent and continuous fleecing of the public purse by the corporate sector. This is basically a hugely scaled-up version of the discredited and hugely expensive PFI program that exists in Britain.

Less has been heard of this project since Trump actually came to office, but it indicates the willingness, and eagerness, of Trump to find ways to use public funds to prop up private profits.

Another way of doing this, however, is by pushing for more armed police, with taxpayers money being used to pay for heavily armed police to protect corporate buildings and entities, for example. Furthermore, tragedies such as that which just occurred in Vegas can create lucrative opportunities for private security providers. Private security is one of the few industries left in which the Western world is still a world leader, with the US market alone said to be worth $350 billion. Thus, anything that helps create or develop markets for private security is good for the US corporate sector Trump represents. And following this attack, clearly, armed security guards are going to be very much more in demand - from hotels, from organizers of music festivals, and generally from anyone with a business which involves large numbers of people congregating together. But it could be that Trump might take the opportunity to start getting the federal government to step up its hiring of private security as well. This would, of course, fit in with the broader goal of privatizing even the most basic functions of the state - such as security.

With so many elements of Trump’s agenda poised to benefit from this attack, many are tempted to speculate that perhaps it was an ‘inside job.' But the point is, the state does not need to carry out these attacks themselves because they have already created a culture that guarantees they will take place. Think about it. The advertising industry and corporate media are pushing society in a certain direction, toward an ultimate destination in which a) everyone wants to be a celebrity and b) everyone is completely depressed (because they are constantly being told that they don’t have enough and that that therefore they are losers until they have the next product - and there is always a next product to get). These are the messages with which US society is constantly bombarded.

Then, into this toxic mix, is thrown saturation coverage of terror attacks and mass shootings every time they take place. Thus the message goes out to suicidal, depressed people, "look, you can be a celebrity! We’ll make you into a celebrity: your face will be headline news, you’ll become a household name, your diaries and thoughts and photos will be pored over….on one condition. You’ve got to go out and kill as many people as possible." And if you do that, you are guaranteed instant fame and notoriety.

So the ruling class doesn't need to organize these massacres themselves, because they’ve already created, and continually reproduce, the conditions which ensure they take place. All they have to do is sit back and wait for someone to take the bait. And they never have to wait too long.

So this is where we are. The root causes of the frustration that leads to these attacks: the bland, alienating consumer society in which work becomes ever more meaningless; the endless messages that fame is what makes you worth something; and the saturation coverage and instant notoriety that is given to these murderers, these are the things that should be tackled. But if we are not putting these things on the agenda - then you can be sure that those in power will use these disasters for their own ends.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.