Many of us continue to behave as if popularity polls and public outrage matter. As if, when enough of us get tired of the Bushitters, they will lose their power. As if we can simply vote them out of office. I think we’re seeing signs that a magic tipping point is indeed being reached -- but it’s not the one we might wish for. I also believe that the almost superhuman feat of denial being performed by the American people on the level of mass consciousness comes from an instinctive understanding that it is better to be brainwashed than . . . well, they’d rather not know what.
At May’s National Conference on Media Reform, Naomi Klein insightfully remarked on the Mainstream Media’s (MSM) role as gatekeepers of amplification. Many stories are reported, from torture at Abu Ghraib to the $9 billion of missing Iraqi money, but few are amplified. An amplified story would be, say, Michael Jackson’s trial. Tom Cruise’s feud with Brooke Shields. Judith Miller’s heroism in defending the First Amendment. An example of a rejected story is the DSM. Karl Rove’s treason. American doctors participating in torture.
It’s not that the public can’t feel outrage, Klein maintains. In fact, they’re outraged all the time -- “just by very odd things.” The electronic media function as a system for fomenting and managing that outrage, dialing the volume up on certain stories, and down on others. It’s hard to resist, and it’s hard to spot -- especially, it seems, from the inside, where the ability to rationalize is a very lucrative talent.
One story that has been repressed from the very beginning has to do with the motivation of the terrorists. Immediately following 9/11, the question was like a punch in the gut: Why? Why do they hate us? The right wing launched a pre-emptive attack against that right away. That kind of talk, they screamed, comes from the blame-America-first crowd. It’s unpatriotic, and it will not be tolerated in post-9/11 America, where people must be careful what they say and careful what they do. We were intimidated, provoked, distracted, shamed, over-worked, and guilted away from that question.
But nothing brings it back like blowback. An emotional and grieving UK may accept Tony Blair’s tired old clichés about a clash of values between freedom-hating fundamentalists on the one side -- and a mirror on the other. On the other hand, the UK is a little different from the US, in that they have George Galloway, who has never wavered in his principled opposition to this war and was not afraid to lay the blame for the attack on London squarely at Tony Blair’s feet.
Blair’s Home Secretary Charles Clark shot back that it had nothing to do with Iraq or with foreign policy in general but was a fundamentalist attack on the way we live, to which Galloway responded, “Well, only a fool would say that, and only a fool would believe that.” Galloway’s views were seconded by Stephen Grey of The Sunday Times of London.
But I would say one important thing, where I think what George Galloway says resonates with what I have seen. I have spent a lot of time in the Middle East recently and in Iraq, in fact, last year. I think one important thing to understand about the nature of Islamic terrorism is that it’s not just about a threat to the way of life of the West. If you talk to people who actually are close to these movements, I mean, they hate, above all, the policies of the West, and what -- you know I won’t comment on those policies, but they extend much -- they’re not just invasion of Iraq, they also extend to our policies, to the Middle East peace process, our involvement in Afghanistan.
Grey goes on later to express fears about the unwelcome possibility of a further crackdown on civil liberties in the UK:
[T]here may also be further demands for much tougher police action, security powers, etc., although ultimately, I’m not convinced that through tougher security and essentially a kind of semi-military response to terrorism that you deal with the underlying causes, which -- and stop the recruitment of these people, which is ultimately what we need to do, because as we have seen, al Qaeda as an organization is becoming more of an idea that is inspiring people around the world.
Meanwhile, in the USA, where the event is at a distance, there is less emotion, but people are definitely on edge. The right’s response, as usual, was completely beyond my ability to predict and yet utterly predictable. Brit Hume said his first reaction was that this is a good time to invest -- thoughtfully appending that “others may have thought that as well.” Fox anchor Brian Kilmeade opined that the attack is a good thing, because it puts terrorism back on the front burner where it belongs. And just to make sure we got it, that we’re completely clear that these responses were not slips or aberrations, John Gibson, subbing for Bill O’Reilly the day after the attacks, made a joke: too bad it wasn’t Paris! “I mean, who’d care?”
I do believe it’s awkward for the anti-terrorist party to be steered by spinmeister Herr Karl Rove, a known traitor, but not terribly. The Bushitters are continuing on briskly about their business, because, as always, the American people deserve governance.
Some recent, little-noted government doings, some of the little dots the MSM are employed to blow apart:
Maria Corina Machado, who was received at the White House by President Bush recently, will go on trial for treason, for conspiring to overthrow the democratically elected government of Hugo Chavez using US funds. Venezuela is our biggest supplier of oil; problem is, they actually want to control it. Venezuela, a Third World country, is more or less off-limits for our MSM. Way too many dots over there, wherever it is.
Here’s one I like: Representative Joe Barton, Bushitter from Texas, who was recently quoted in the New York Times as saying that we are heading for a generational war over Medicaid (but not a class war, god forbid), is investigating three climate scientists. Por que? Well, the problem seems to be that these professors have published work that suggests the earth’s climate is warmer now than it has been in many centuries and that burning fossil fuels is to blame. Congressmember Barton is demanding documentation and information about all the grants and awards they have received. Perhaps certain segments of the intelligentsia need to be de-funded right along with certain liberal court circuits.
A woman whose main claim to fame is creating fake news for airing as real news on TV stations all over America, particularly rural America, is the new president of the Corporation of Public Broadcasting.
Using their incompetence and failure prior to 9/11 as an excuse, the government is breaking down the walls between domestic and international spying through a reorganization of the FBI. The ACLU says it is a radical step toward the creation of a secret police force in the US. If the administration has its way and USAPA is strengthened, our new FBI will have the power to issue so-called “administrative” subpoenas, issued by a higher up within the organization. In other words, it suspends the right of habeas corpus, of due process, of freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, in direct contradiction of our Constitution.
Finally, the White House has declared that the military will henceforth play a larger role in homeland security. When asked what that means, the administration mouthpiece guessed that nothing will really change. Except that if and when there is another terrorist attack here at home, it won’t be our local police and firemen or the citizen-army of the National Guard, but paid mercenaries, some of them under orders from corporate contractors outside the military chain of command, who will be keeping order on our streets. Martial law, baby. This one’s so scary even the Cato Institute is saying whoa: “The move toward a domestic intelligence capability by the military is troubling. The last time the military got heavily involved in domestic surveillance, during the Vietnam War era, military intelligence kept thousands of files on Americans guilty of nothing more than opposing the war. I don’t think we want to go down that road again.”
Why do they hate us? Because we have used the rest of the world as our personal playground and dump. Ronald Reagan’s -- and capitalism’s – glorious victory over the USSR in the decades-long Cold War, was won with the blood and on the soil of the Third World. Our policy was to foment war all around the globe in order to bleed our adversary, the USSR, white. It really had nothing to do with the peoples hosting the conflicts, as it were. They were mere collateral.
In Afghanistan, according to Mahmood Mamdani, author of the indispensable Good Muslim/Bad Muslim (hardcover, pg. 252), the cost of our brilliantly successful Cold War strategy was:
Out of a population of roughly 20 million, 1 million died, another million and a half were maimed, another 5 million became refugees, and just about everyone was internally displaced. UN agencies estimate that nearly a million and half went clinically insane as a consequence of decades of continuous war. Those who survived lived in the most mined country in the world. Afghanistan was a brutalized society even before the American bombing began [after 9/11].
But the most frightening insight in Mamdani’s book (pg. 8), comes from two other books, Aime Cesaire’s Discourse on Colonialism: “the European bourgeois cannot forgive Hitler for ‘the fact that he applied to Europe the colonial practices that had previously been applied only to the Arabs of Algeria, the coolies of India and the Negroes of Africa.” And Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth: “Nazism turned the whole of Europe into a veritable colony.”
Which leads me to speculate that perhaps all imperialist empires inevitably eventually bring their terrorism home.
In that light, it might be reassuring to remember what Vice President Cheney recently said about detainees who’ve been held without charges for years at Gitmo, with respect to the type of treatment we at home can expect: “They’re living in the tropics. They’re well fed. They’ve got everything they could possibly want.”
Patricia Goldsmith is a member of Long Island Media Watch, a grassroots free media and democracy watchdog group. She is also a frequent contributor to MandateTHIS.org. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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