The White House Rodeo

By Mike Davis

Earlier this year, four gaunt horsemen in black shrouds cantered down Pennsylvania Avenue. Since no one complained or even noticed, they grazed their hungry steeds on the White House lawn. They've been there ever since and threaten never to leave.

This interview with them is a TomDispatch exclusive:

"First Horseman, please state your name for our readers."

"My name is Oil and my price is $50 per barrel and higher yet to come."

"Fine, and you're from�?"

"Hubbert's Peak."

"Is that in Colorado?"

No response.

"Are you in Washington for business or pleasure?"

"Both, actually. While wrecking the American economy, I'm also hoping to bring immense happiness to a handful of giant energy corporations."

"Well, that's a popular cause in this town, so please enjoy your stay. Now, Second Horseman, can I have your name for the record."

"My name is Proliferation, son of Wot and destroyer of worlds."


"The War on Terrorism. Only the strong and nuclear-armed shall survive, so sayeth Bush."

"I see, you're a traveling salesman. Visited any exotic locales lately?"

"Mainly Tehran and Pyongyang with some overnights in Karachi, Delhi, and Brasilia. But I have a heavy travel schedule over the next year."

"Enjoy your frequent-flyer points. And now, number three, if I could interrupt for a minute?"

"No problem. My name is Global Chaos. I was just sorting through some vacation photos. Take a look."

"Thanks. Hmm, very National Geographic."

"Yes, I love the great outdoors. This is a melting glacier in Alaska. Here's a flood in Bangladesh. Oh, one of my favorites, the epic drought in the American Southwest."

"Eh, what are those white objects?"

"You mean the bones?"

"Bones? Maybe I'd better move on and meet Horseman Four."

"I am the pale rider and my name is Plague."

"I bet your first name is Bubonic?"

"No, that's my cousin. I'm the avian influenza pandemic."

"I'm sorry, but have I heard of you?"

"The World Health Organization says I am an unprecedented threat to humanity. The world is utterly unprepared to deal with my arrival."

"Well, that's one helluva blurb."

"Yes, and my grandfather killed 100 million people in 1918-19."

"No kidding? Well, thanks for sharing. Now, I wonder if I can ask a few questions of the entire group. First, does your posse, band, whatever, have an agent or publicist?"

"Yes, Saint John."

"OK, and has he arranged your DC publicity? Have you had much election-year media exposure? You know, O'Reilly, the Washington Post, Meet the Press, the Lehrer News Hour�.?"

"Oh, no," laughed Chaos, "no one has interviewed us."

"Come on, four big guys in black on horses, here in front of the White House during an election season."

"No, honest," Proliferation chipped in, "they don't want to acknowledge our presence."

"Well, how about the other side, the opposition party? Surely, they've looked to you for a juicy angle. I mean the horse doo-doos all over the White House lawn, not to mention�.. Hey are you guys even citizens? Do you have passports?"

"I can assure you," Proliferation insisted, "none of that matters. No one wants to admit we're here."

"But why?"

Plague spoke. "Apocalypse denial. Your whole society is suffering from acute apocalypse denial."

"That's preposterous, we're afraid of all kinds of things these days. We tremble at the very thought of anthrax in the mail, plutonium on the subways, or botulism in our Big Macs. We have regular orange alerts�."

Plague interrupted. "No, that's the whole point. You're so terrified of the shadows your rulers project on the wall that you can't see us standing here, right outside your door."

"Hmm, so I guess you guys are the real deal?"

"Believe it."

"So what's your business plan?"

Chaos cleared his throat. "For generations, the wealthier 40 percent of your population has lived inside an extraordinary bubble of privilege."

"In addition to enormous security of wealth and status," Proliferation took over, "your affluent classes have been sheltered from the bitter winds of history."

"We're the bitter winds," added Plague.

"And we'll burst your bubble," Oil promised.

A pale horse neighed.

"Unfortunately my recorder has run out of tape. I'm afraid we'll have to end the interview with that."

"No problem," Oil smiled. "Y'all come back and visit. We're not going anywhere."

© 2004 Mike Davis

Mike Davis is the author of Dead Cities: And Other Tales, Ecology of Fear, and co-author of Under the Perfect Sun: the San Diego Tourists Never See, among other books. This interview was first published by is researched, written and edited by Tom Engelhardt -- a fellow at the Nation Institute -- for anyone in despair over post-September 11th US mainstream media coverage of our world and ourselves. The service is intended to introduce you to voices from elsewhere (even when the elsewhere is here) who might offer a clearer sense of how this imperial globe of ours actually works.