hear there's rumors on the Internets that we're going to have a draft."
� George W. Bush, contemplating his next Lone Star, October 8, 2004, St. Louis,
You know that you've reached desperate times when you find
yourself fondly remembering Tass and Pravda as beacons of journalistic
But when considering US corporate media's seven-year love
affair with the Bush administration and its willingness to deliver blatant
propaganda and outright lies to manufacture Bush-approved political orthodoxy,
those former USSR institutions compare favorably with the shameless house
organs now masquerading as an American free press.
corporate competition: co-opted beyond redemption
Thanks to a 30-year frenzy of mergers and acquisitions,
wink-and-nod FCC "oversight" and congressional unwillingness to
invoke existing anti-trust laws, the American marketplace of ideas is now ruled
by six massive
conglomerates that control the content of more than 80 percent of what most
of us see, hear and read.
So what? Well, for one thing, a significant majority of
news, entertainment and information US audiences see is vetted for its support
of status quo corporate values and purged of "dangerous"
unconventional narratives -- perhaps regarding the threat to independent
thought posed by media consolidation.
And when discussing media consolidation, someone might
tumble to the fact that NBC is owned by General Electric, one of the world's largest
armaments manufacturers in 2006 and among the six largest media
makes and maintains engines for the F-16 Fighter jet, Abrams tank, Apache
helicopter, U2 bomber, Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV), A-10 aircraft and
numerous other military equipment, including planes, helicopters, tanks and
Is it reasonable to expect NBC to report critically on the
status and duration of the Iraq occupation? Or is it predictable that NBC's
occupation coverage will tell us that the "surge" is
working, that US
troop deaths are down, that the Iraqi
puppet regime is gaining traction and, if we can hang on for another
decade, things should turn out hunky-dory.
Well, it's certain that extending the US presence in Iraq by
a decade will have a very positive impact on GE's profit and loss statements.
It's probably going to be somewhat less beneficial for the people who actually
have to fight this insane proxy war on behalf of GE's bottom line.
But that's okay, since war is the optimum
business condition for many industries -- banks, weapons makers, raw
materials suppliers, machine tool makers and so on -- GE looks to sell many
billions of dollars more of its killing machinery, all the while telling
Americans via NBC how peace is just 10 or so years down the road.
And GE is just one of the main offenders. We'll leave for
another day a discussion on how thoroughly Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. has
polluted the national discourse. Or how the acquisitive tentacles of Viacom,
CBS, TimeWarner and Disney have managed to take a relatively engaged population
and, in 30 short years, turn it into a nation of compliant, ill-informed,
politically illiterate chowder heads content to consume their quota of goods,
services and ideologies with an equally uncritical eye.
American mass media lost the thread of the story decades ago
and are now only qualified to dish pop culture infotainment masquerading as
news; report breathlessly on the latest D-class celebrity screw-up; and act as
stenographers and cheerleaders for the latest batch of official Bush
Among other insults, this explains why John Stossel is a
network star while Bill Moyers is on PBS.
The parallel universe
The only serious competition threatening corporate media's
monopoly on official "truths" -- those pieties designed to narrow
acceptable choices and increase social control -- comes from the Internet.
"The news," as it's laughingly known, can tap into
a seemingly endless supply of drunken or felonious fools like Jessica and Paris
and OJ and Twitany to sedate its viewers. Then there's the occasional gruesome
murder to balance the chirpy happy talk on miraculous medical procedures (which
most of us will never live to experience because our for-profit insurers won't
cover them), an always erroneous look at local weather, followed by 15
uplifting minutes on sports and a recap of the top celebrity screw-ups. The
viewer yawns, feels a bit awed by all this technical wizardry and slick
showmanship, and heads for bed thinking he's up to date on the stuff that
Corporate media has a bottomless pool of "on-air
talent" -- perfectly coiffed, well-modulated, tastefully made up, arrayed
in $5K worth of suits, ties and little flag lapel pins, strident and irritating
as a hundred Ross Perots.
We have broadband, YouTube, blogs, forums, actual reporters,
search engines, discussion groups, political organizing, access to newspapers
published in actual free countries -- all taking place in plain sight.
Over the past decade Internet and Web technology have
matured and surpassed nearly anything mass media can offer. It's instant news,
usually with audio or video, often reported by eyewitnesses rather than
filtered by some blow-dried idiot. It's preserving what's left of our national
heritage by archiving "purged" documents. It's subjecting every
significant political, social and economic development to the scrutiny and
analysis of the world's collective brainpower. It's the unifying element
linking diverse cultures into an evolving planetary society not subordinated to
states or lines on a map. And it's the universe's greatest source of jokes,
one-liners and satire.
nightmare: an informed and activist citizenry
I don't see how the power elites can afford to allow this
nonsense to continue for much longer. People with unconventional (read:
humanitarian or peaceful) ideas are the implacable enemy of those sustaining
their wealth and power by aligning themselves with the status quo, and these
dissenting Internet pipsqueaks cannot be tolerated forever.
To our corporate masters, libraries, independent publishers
and bookstores are bad enough. But fortunately for "them," libraries
are underfunded and ill-attended, it's getting harder to publish unorthodox
material in the US and many independent book stores are getting killed by the
Barnes & Nobles and Amazons of the world.
Not so the Internet. It's become the alternate universe for
hundreds of millions of people worldwide who know and understand that the
official story is always and inevitably suspect. That altruism has never been a
function of governments. That governments are always at war with "the
people" they pretend to watch out for. That, as The Commander Guy pointed
out in a rare moment of clarity, dictatorships ARE easier to run than
representative democracies. That power exists solely to perpetuate itself and,
when threatened, will defend its position with anything and everything in the
Now that's a hell of an alternate narrative. And the
Internet is the "plumbing" that carries these contrarian messages --
and the seditious thoughts and attitudes and movements they inspire -- around
the world in less time than it takes Murdoch to count his latest billion.
Death by harassment
In July of last year, Bush signed an executive order,
Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq.
This expanded the administration's flexible definition of a terrorist to
include anyone disagreeing with its " . . . efforts to promote economic reconstruction
and political reform in Iraq or to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi
people." This apparently
isn't intended as a joke, although I'm not sure what's going on over there
qualifies as "economic reconstruction" or "humanitarian
Which brings us to "Endgame," as the Department of
Homeland Security calls HR 1955/S 1959, known officially as The Violent
Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007, and which
contains -- among dozens of disgusting provisions -- these gems [italics mine]:
(2) The promotion of violent
radicalization, homegrown terrorism and ideologically based violence exists in
the United States and poses a threat to homeland security.
(3) The Internet has aided in facilitating
violent radicalization, ideologically based violence, and the homegrown
terrorism process in the United States by providing access to broad and constant streams of terrorist-related propaganda to
United States citizens.
Striking at the heart of the international terrorist
conspiracy, this bill targets the dangerous arch-fiends/grandmothers who
participate on the hundreds of thousands of political forums, blogs or news and
information sites that aren't exclusively devoted to singing the praises of Bush/Cheney
and their merry band of imperialist oil pirates.
Note that this piece of repressive legislation -- rumored to
be the brainchild of the Rand Corporation and introduced by Democrat Jane Harman -- passed the House
last October by a 404-6 margin. Note that, introduced last August in the upper
house as S 1959 and
co-sponsored by GOP armchair warrior and domestic repression enthusiast Norm
Coleman, it's coming up for a vote in the Senate early this year. If it passes,
which seems likely, a Bush signature is a given -- probably with a signing
statement that says he'll ignore the act's few feeble provisions to combat
totalitarianism, like this one:
(a) In General - The Department of
Homeland Security's efforts to prevent ideologically based violence and
homegrown terrorism as described herein shall
not violate the constitutional rights, civil rights, or civil liberties of
United States citizens or lawful permanent residents.
Readers may want to take appropriate preemptive action
before, say, downloading this article becomes a felony.
There's an interesting new site called "Wikileaks" that has
garnered some recent attention from corporate mass media, notably Time
Magazine, which notes that Wikileaks " . . . could become as important
a journalistic tool as the Freedom of Information Act." The site is
intended as a secure repository where whistleblowers can, at minimal personal
risk, post confidential, potentially embarrassing government and corporate
documents for the entire online world to see, study and analyze.
Here's part of Wikileaks' mission statement:
We propose that authoritarian
governments, oppressive institutions and corrupt corporations should be subject
to the pressure, not merely of international diplomacy, freedom of information
laws or even periodic elections, but of something far stronger � the
consciences of the people within them.
We believe that transparency in government activities leads to reduced
corruption, better government and stronger democracies . . . We believe this
scrutiny requires information. Historically that information has been costly -
in terms of human life and human rights. But with technological advances to the
Internet and cryptography, the risks of conveying important information can be
Wikileaks opens leaked documents up to stronger scrutiny than any media
organization or intelligence agency can provide. Wikileaks provides a forum for
the entire global community to relentlessly examine any document for its
credibility, plausibility, veracity and validity. Communities can interpret
leaked documents and explain their relevance to the public. If a document comes
from the Chinese government, the entire Chinese dissident community and
diaspora can freely scrutinize and discuss it; if a document arrives from Iran,
the entire Farsi community can analyze it and put it in context.
In an important sense, Wikileaks is the first intelligence agency of the people
. . . its only interest is the revelation of the truth. Unlike the covert
activities of state intelligence agencies, Wikileaks relies upon the power of
overt fact to enable and empower citizens to bring feared and corrupt
governments and corporations to justice.
Wikileaks is still months from going fully operational, but
they've already put up quite a few leaked documents from all over the world.
Here's one entitled "Fallujah,
the information war and U.S. propaganda."
I suppose the whole thing could be a slick disinfo psy-op
designed to leak phony documents to "non-embedded" reporters, then
embarrass them publicly for printing anti-US propaganda fabricated by some
obscure left-radical loon or "terrorist."
But only a pure pessimist would think the Bush
administration capable of such chicanery. On the contrary, they've amassed an
impressive record of unstinting support for the organizing principles of this
country . . . for those with the right pedigree and who can kick in a million
bucks or so to the Republican National Committee each election cycle.
Pease only exists within the broadband spectrum of the public's airwaves. Don't
be fooled by cheap imitations, living or dead. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org while
the Internet is still up and running. Also, if you value your opinions and the
right to express them openly over the Internet, please call your senators and urge them
to vote against S 1959. Then, if you really enjoy smashing your head into the
the media of your dissatisfaction with their complete blackout on HR 1955
and S 1959.