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Some weeks back I got a call from Al Jazeera wanting me to be on a show, but insisting that I couldn't do it from a local studio via satellite or from my computer via Skype. No, I would have to fly to New York and back, and they would pay for the flight and pay a "per diem" as well (they didn't specify how much). I was not eager to take a whole day out of my life to fly to New York and back, but they sold me on it. This, they told me, would be the premier edition of a new Sunday morning news program to compete with the existing ones. And it would include different perspectives.
"This week, we are producing a debate on whether or not the 'American empire is on decline', and I would love to have you on the show to share your thoughts on the issue on this very exciting debate," wrote a woman who turned out to be one of many producers, in an initial email. We exchanged emails and spoke by phone. I provided brief responses on several subtopics. I even wrote and published a column on the topic and sent it to them. Various Al Jazeera staff got in on the email thread. I also spoke by phone with executive producer Robert Lilly.
At the studio in New York, I found out just before the taping who I would be debating. She had apparently known about me as her debate opponent for some time. Her name was Tara Maller and she worked at the Aspen Institute with General Stanley McChrystal. She and some of the producers sitting in the waiting room seemed to compete with each other in dropping the names of horribly blood-soaked and ridiculously over-wealthy people they knew. It reminded me of waiting to go on Fox News more than, say, theRealNews.com.
The debate turned out to be something like 15 minutes. Host Imran Garda veered away from the declining empire topic to focus on the question of war. I found that shift welcome. I was delighted to explain my views on war in general and various specific wars, to the extent that one can do so in a few teeny sound bytes. Garda seemed surprised, however, that someone could actually oppose all wars. There may have been a memo he missed on that. Maller, for her part, did fine, but told me afterwards that I talked faster than she did, and remarked to one of the gaggle of producers how absurd it was for her to have played the role of war supporter. Of course, her views were her own and I would have welcomed it had she chosen to oppose war, but she was clearly more comfortable debating someone to her right who wanted more war than she did.
I thought the taping went well, such as it was. There were no glaring problems, and all sorts of executives and bigwigs shook our hands and thanked us. I thanked one of them for airing (I thought that the show would in fact be airing) something that the other networks would never air, and the look I got back disturbed me. I wondered whether they actually found that idea unpleasant. I flew back home on their dime. I started telling people that Al Jazeera was going to air something different from the norm of Sunday political TV.
I heard little from the Al Jazeera folks for some weeks. They'd been eager to know when I'd be back in New York, but when I told them they didn't seem so interested anymore. I asked them about paying my "per diem" and they weaseled out of it with a claim that they would only pay for food and cabs with receipts. I'd given them a receipt for a cab when their car hadn't shown up at La Guardia. They'd never hinted that I needed to get receipts for food or that that was what they meant by "per diem." In the same email that included that weaseling, the out-of-the-loop producer who'd first contacted me said "I hope you got to watch the premier this past Sunday!"
That was odd. Nobody had told me it was going to be on or that they'd seen it. What good was this show if nobody saw it? I asked where the clip was online and got no response. Some days later I found a website for the show. Here it is: http://america.aljazeera.com/watch/shows/third-rail.html The show is called The Third Rail, but it's not exactly electrifying. It's the same old, same old, with Judith Miller and Alan Dershowitz and such types. The guests fit with the attitude I picked up on in the studio of wanting to be CNN. These videos don't make for something worth announcing to the world as new and different from the usual gang of corporate hacks regurgitating talking points. The show I taped is not there.
I emailed the original producer who had been my main contact and CC'd a colleague she had been CCing. "I see you now have the show here http://america.aljazeera.com/watch/shows/third-rail.html with no sign of any debate that might question war," I emailed. "On the contrary Judith Miller's smiling face front and center. What's up? I took an entire day out of my life to debate a war-proponent in teeny little sound bites and then you killed it? Your plan is to compete with Meet the Depressed and such shows by imitating them?"
The CC'd colleague, Senior Interview Producer Katy Ramirez Karp, wrote back saying let's talk tomorrow.
"Sure," I replied. "Why did you kill a program supposedly aimed at being different and including an anti-war point of view in order to air the same old slop from Alan Dershowitz and Judith Miller and all your typical Meet The Depressed style warmongering hacks? Was the other guest happy or upset to have the show killed? Did you tell her? Were you planning on telling me? Do you intend to ape the lousy existing shows but just have fewer viewers, or are you hoping to create something different?"
Wait sixty seconds.
The phone rang. It was Katy. "If you have something to say . . . !" She quickly accused me of "badgering" and "threatening." Whom was I threatening with what, how, and when? I asked her four or five times before she said "I'm not accusing you of threatening. I'm objecting to your tone." (Picture someone screaming "I'm objecting to your screaming!"). Ignoring her tone, I asked her why they had killed the program and if they had intended to tell me. Her response: "It was a practice run, my dear. We thought we might use part of it." She went on to say something about how they fully planned to include points of view from "your kind of advocates and causes." You got the sense she was holding something at arm's length with her nose pinched.
When I pointed out that I never would have come to New York for a practice run and had, needless to say, never been fed that line prior to this moment, she said she would have to speak with her colleagues about that. She ranted for a while about how she was a professional, and when I tried to say something she hung up.
Now, I don't seriously think they flew people in for a practice run and lied to them about it. I think quite obviously they decided after filming the program, for whatever reason, that they preferred to air the stuff you'll see on their website.
Was my performance or Muller's unsatisfactory in some sort of technical way? I doubt it. I was just like I was in the clips of me they'd seen before inviting me on.
Did I say the wrong things about Syria or the weapons industry or something else in particular? I doubt it.
My best guess is they didn't want to be the show that premiers by doing something as laughable as opposing mass murder -- you can't touch such a third rail when you've already got the name Third Rail! But of course I'm just guessing. They won't tell me. They would rather claim that they lied to me for weeks and couldn't find anyone in the entire city of New York who could sit in for a "practice run."
By John Grant
Alice Walker explains this line, "Though war speaks every language it never knows what to say to frogs" in the opening of her beautiful book, Why War Is Never a Good Idea, illustrated by Stefano Vitale, thus:
War speaks every language she says, because every nation has war. But of course this isn't true. Many nations that make war on others do not have war at home, not in remotely the way the nations have it where wars are fought. Anyone in the United States knows that a global war aggressor suffers, but also knows that the wars are not here, and that the difference is one of night and day. Many nations also do not make war, nearby or far off. Some nations, Costa Rica, Iceland, and lots of little nations, have no military, no war plans, no investment in future wars, and no wars. And this is why it matters that War Is Never a Good Idea, because good ideas exist as available alternatives.
The frogs, Walker explains very accurately as being among the respresentatives in her book of the creatures who play no role in creating war, have no understanding of war, and suffer from war, directly from its violence, and indirectly from its impact on climate change and the natural environment.
Walker's personification of war as a being that knows and thinks and does things for its own purposes is also, strictly speaking, perfectly accurate, as well as powerfully provocative. Just as a "selfish gene" can be understood as aiming for the well-being of the gene rather than the organism, war does not benefit its participants, its victims, its observers, or for the most part its creators, supporters, cheerleaders, or tolerators. War does not generate happiness, prosperity, fulfillment, wisdom, beauty, or sustainability. War generates more war. In the absence of war it would be quite easy to persuade enough people to nip in the bud any notion of creating it. In the presence of war, the willful delusion that war is inevitable is quite pervasive.
"Though war is old, it has not become wise. It will not hesitate to destroy things that do not belong to it, things very much older than itself."
There is wisdom in that line. Not only have various nations set war aside for decades or centuries, and in some cases brought it back again, but most human cultures for most of human existence never knew war at all. It is newer than most every adaptation of human evolution, and we are unable to adapt to it, and should we do so it would destroy us.
"Here war is munching on a village. Its missiles taking chunks, big bites out of it. War's leftover gunk seeps like saliva into the ground. It is finding its way into the village well."
Stop drinking the water.
By Dave Lindorff
A tectonic shift is occurring suddenly in the debate over climate change.
By Rene Wadlow
18 May has been designated by UNESCO as the International Day of Museums to highlight the role that museums play in preserving beauty, culture, and history. Museums come in all sizes and are often related to institutions of learning and libraries. Increasingly, churches and centers of worship have taken on the character of museums as people visit them for their artistic value even if they do not share the faith of those who built them.
Museums are important agents of intellectual growth and of cultural understanding. They are part of the common heritage of humanity, and thus require special protection in times of armed conflict. Many were horrified at the looting of the National Museum of Baghdad when some of the oldest objects of civilization were stolen or destroyed. Fortunately many items were later found and restored, but the American forces had provided inadequate protection at a time when wide-spread looting was predicted and, in fact, was going on. More recently, we have seen the deliberate destruction of cultural heritage in the museum of Mosul by ISIS factions. Today, there is deep concern for Palmyra as ISIS and government troops battle near Palmyra, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The US needs the Iceland option: If ‘Too-Big-to-Fail’’ Means Too-Big-To-Jail’ It Should Mean ‘Too-Big-to-Be’
By Dave Lindorff
In a couple of days, the so-called US Justice Department will be announcing an “agreement” reached with five large banks, including two of the largest in the US -- JP Morgan Chase and Citigroup, the holding companies for Chase and Citibank -- under which these banks or bank holding companies will plead guilty to felonies involving the manipulation of international currency markets.
By Kristin Christman
If we could see a Mother’s Day
All around the world,
Where mothers lived a day of joy,
Where mothers felt their worth,
Then what exactly would we see
So moms could realize
That their lives are important and
Their own perspectives wise?
The women in Sudan would not
Be flogged for wearing pants.
Their spirits wouldn’t be constrained;
They’d run, skip, sing, and dance.
In Arabia we’d celebrate
No groping of the girls;
They’d drive their cars with elbows bare,
Show ankles under skirts.
As golden rays of morning light
Touched arms tan from the sun,
Brown locks of hair blown by the breeze
From scarves could come undone.
And no false blame on women for
Attracting hands of men,
As if the hands were victims of
The evil feminine.
Instead of yoking women, telling
Them they have to hide,
The men without firm self-control
Would wear handcuffs outside.
And stiff Wahhabi thoughts of us
As temptresses dirt-smeared
Would turn around, go upside down
Til women were revered.
We’d hear collapse beliefs that virgins
Wait up in the sky
To welcome men who’ve torn apart
The hearts of countless lives.
For woman would not see the sense
In violence or the use
Of bombs, explosions, grief, and death
With God as an excuse.
And over in Afghanistan
Car bombings and grenades
Against the women working for
Their rights would quickly fade.
Iranians for their part would
forbid torture and rapes
Of prisoners and end abuse
Of wives, victims of hate.
And Pakistani mothers giving
Birth would have the aid
Of female nurses from their land
Who’ve been to school and trained.
Then as their infants grew in age
They’d find joy escalate
From playgrounds, slides, and jungle gyms,
From swimming, roller blades.
As youth needing adventure they’d
Not turn to violent games;
Instead they’d learn gymnastics,
Parachute, ski, climb, and skate.
And as adults out searching for
High purpose, noble life,
They’d tie their passion to non-violent
Action without strife.
Down south in Congo women would
Be safe from savage harm;
Their sons and husbands never forced
To kidnap, kill, bear arms.
Traditions that insist a wife
Accept pain from her mate
Would be replaced by cell phones to
Report him and escape.
And food crops would replace cash crops
So families could eat,
And women would not eat what’s left
From men but with them feast.
Cold darkness that compels some men
To kill for treasured mines
Would change to light so they could see
that deadly greed’s unkind.
And what use is the gain of wealth
When all that it’s used for
Is purchasing more guns to fuel
A war for wealth for war?
The violence in Nigeria,
The suffering on all sides
From lack of prosecution, no
Defense of human rights;
The oil spills from old pipelines that
The owners won’t clean up,
Polluting land and water leaving
Natives without much;
The poverty and homelessness
And baseless cruel arrests
That place one thousand on death row,
No fair trials or defense;
On Mother’s Day if this could all
Completely change around,
We might set up good habits and
Not spirals going down.
In India no woman would
Get acid on her face
From men who feel superior
But are debased by hate.
And South Koreans would not let
A thirst for alcohol
Fuel murder, rape, and robbery
And take a morbid toll.
High in Nepal the women who
Have skills to mediate
Would not be kept from peace talks led
By men who just debate.
And women healers never would
Be stoned for their witchcraft.
Holistic ways cure even without
Numbers, charts, and graphs.
While medicalized knowledge of
The body may be right,
The inattention to the whole
Leaves gaps in our insight.
Just as the mediator should
Not solve our problems by
Descending bombs and missiles down
To quench unfriendly fire,
The healer cannot fix sickness
By simply cutting out
The portion of the body that
Has fever, fat, or gout.
For problems in the world cannot
Be fixed by killing lives,
And problems in our bodies need
Much more than drugs and knives.
Frustrations and relations, time
In nature or at jobs,
The feeling that we’re trapped somehow,
Our life dreams have been robbed:
How are these matters making us
Unhealthy or unkind?
Do they bring out the worst in us
Or bring us peace of mind?
The system whole must be observed
To see what causes what
Or else the complications will
Remain all tangled up.
For enemies, just like disease,
Are symptoms: something’s wrong.
Repair what does provoke them and
You’ll build a friendship strong.
Across the sea in Mexico
No woman would depend
Upon her husband for her wealth
Nor for her self-respect.
Each woman could afford to hire
Help within the home.
Poor moms need not tend children of
The rich but raise their own.
The Wayuu of Colombia
Could live without alarm
That families will be massacred
With holes from bullet swarms.
By men who from the government,
Police and private thugs,
Seize for themselves the coast for fossil
Fuels and smuggling drugs.
And work for human rights in countries
Like El Salvador
Would not be targeted by groups
Who profit more from war.
Then in the mid-Pacific where
The natives are in grief,
Kept out of sacred land that is
now navy property,
Hawaiian native women would
Return to visit land
Of ancient gods and goddesses
Test-bombed by US planes.
The toxins in Pearl Harbor dumped
As military waste
Would all be cleaned so fish could breathe
And beauty not erased.
In US stores we’d witness rows
Of magazines on racks
Of women not in swimsuits showing
pubic bones and breasts.
We wouldn’t cover woman and
Reveal only her eyes,
Nor lay her bare for all to see,
Cheap flesh, demeaning lives.
And all strip clubs would be stripped down,
Their women given jobs,
Positions of great dignity,
Not work for two-faced slobs.
We’d recognize that women whether
Shrouded or displayed
Have hearts and minds that are submerged
In cultures’ one-track ways.
And shackled wisdom of our land
From cultures that were free
Would resurrect itself, a gift
For all humanity.
Lakota mothers and Diné
Would finally realize
A family life without despair,
Full bonds with nature, spirit sparked,
No disconnection with the heart,
The spirit, mind, body.
With hunger gone, no poverty,
The chance to regain rights,
No need to turn to drink and drugs
When meaning’s back in life.
On Mother’s Day we’d recognize,
Between the genders, age, and class,
At work, in families.
We’d pay the waitress, teacher, nurse,
And secretary, too,
A wage much higher than those who
Sell weapons, drugs, and fuel.
For weapons sales would be exposed
As selfish business games
To not resolve but push for war
With profits as the aim.
And alcohol’s dark role in death,
So many homicides,
Would firmly be acknowledged and
Its sale not be advised.
We’d help the homeless, feed the poor,
And not expect one class
To serve the needs of higher-ups
While their needs pass unmet.
Our presidents, their spouses would
Not sport designer dress;
Instead they’d pay a good wage to
A hungry, poor seamstress.
And males and females would maintain
Girls would not hurt and put down boys;
Boys would not girls reject.
The women wouldn’t serve beneath
The men in any church
Or mosque or synagogue as if
Their spirits had less worth.
Yet women who are leaders would
Gain power not because
Their vicious qualities have replaced
Caring, joy, and love.
For in the workforce people would
Lead democratic lives
And not be trampled by a boss:
Cold tyrant, warm disguise.
For if we’re a democracy
But plod to work each day
In fiefdoms of a monarchy
With meager voice and pay,
How can we then experience
The feeling that we’re free,
Where each voice is of value and
We’re cared for equally?
On Mother’s Day our care for kids
Would not be thrown between
The cooking, dishes, laundry, but
Receive deserved esteem.
And raising children would be viewed
As life’s most precious role,
Requiring endless love and time,
A giving of the soul.
We wouldn’t raise our children to
Crave power more than love,
Beat, scold, and dominate them to
Instill a fear of us.
For how we treat them now will lead
To future consequence;
If we want loving adults then
To start with us makes sense.
If we want men to love their wives
We’d better love our sons,
And not raise them to hate themselves
Without love, joy, and fun.
For if a boy learns to relate
In terms of fear’s control,
He’ll see no other choice but
Domination when he’s old.
Over his wife, over his friends,
The pattern will run deep;
He’ll dominate all foreigners
And those of other creeds.
If he learns that his status and
His wealth are paramount,
He’ll only strive for power thinking
Love and joy don’t count.
On Mother’s Day life would be more
Than time for work and chores:
We’d all have time for hobbies, pets,
And for the wild outdoors.
We wouldn’t split the family with
Each member heading for
A different job, a school, and
Reuniting not before
The gloaming when at last they come
Fatigued from weary days,
With little energy for love,
No spark to laugh or play.
The schools would open later and
Give children needed sleep,
Instead of living days fatigued
Like uncharged batteries.
Instead of tests and punishments
Class sizes would be small,
For learning grows when love has time
To help scared kids feel tall.
With so much sadness, so much hate,
The question should not cease:
Should needs for academics so
Eclipse our need for peace?
For while a core of knowledge can
Do wonders for our world,
There comes a point where more classtime
And homework are absurd.
So classtime would be cut in half;
The children could unwind
And wade in brooks and skip some stones,
Ride horses, jump, and climb.
And those kids who prefer more school
Could happily remain
For teachers’ help, class, clubs, and gym,
A half-day freely gained.
But if the light of freedom is
Snuffed out from children’s days,
Before too long the zest to care
For learning fades away.
For while those lacking schools may have
Much thirst to learn at will,
When schools are overwhelming
Overload can make us ill.
And while we pay much money to insurance industries,
We’d probably have better health
If things like this could be.
On Mother’s Day life would not be
A selfish race for pay,
For grades, for profits, numbers, but
A time to care and play.
And on that day our children would
Be more than cogs in wheels
That turn the global marketplace
And work for others’ deals.
Pursuing values that should never
of militarized space, control,
greed, wealth, and vanity.
For when demands on children and
adults do prove too much
and replace joy and love with stress
our wisdom’s turned to dust.
And while the bell curve’s going up
Our culture may seem sound,
But when the excess leads to grief
We plummet to the ground.
Then suddenly in Europe all
The ancient toppled shrines
Of Mother Earth the Goddess would
Be righted, unconfined.
And Mother Earth would take her place
Above all human beings,
Not subject to harsh vagaries
Of man-made deities.
We’d recognize the beauty of
The Earth without the stains
Of human excavation, mines,
And highways multi-laned.
We’d shun atomic energy
And fuels of fossils, too,
Abhor their deathly toxins and
Their ugly residues.
Before invading Arctic lands
They’d ask us if it’s wise
To drill for fossil fuels that are
The cause of melting ice.
Before constructing one new road
Or store or parking lot,
They’d ask us if we mind yet one
More shattered habitat.
The population we’d reverse
The growth to smaller size:
No Goddess would intend for us
To live while all else dies.
With Mother Earth as Goddess we
Would fervently exclaim
That land is much too beautiful
To spoil and profane
With bombs and blood of those who in
War’s unholy pursuit,
Believe their cause is nobler than
The Earth that they pollute.
The painting of the mother with
Tears streaming down her cheeks,
Who bravely hugs her son goodbye
To play war’s drumming beat,
We’d paint that over to reveal
The wisdom of her heart
In knowing that her child should stay
And not for war depart.
Sons would not be conscripted nor
Be registered for war
to lose the very freedom they
allegedly fight for.
To serve in war by force within
A nation labeled free,
Enticed to register with offers
of college degrees,
Is lower than a nation proud
Should shamelessly descend
While undermining promises
Of freedom in the end.
For what true good can come of war
If it recycles hate
And falsely teaches lessons that
Our foes deserve their fate?
If we learn that the enemies
Are lacking in remorse,
Our conscience never pricks us when
We kill with total force.
If we learn that the enemies
Cannot be understood
And that we would not be like them
If in their shoes we stood,
Then we won’t know a Mother’s love
For all her children round.
We’ll never learn the view from in
The sky when looking down:
Upon us all, our faults and strengths,
how we antagonize
Each other and then claim we’re right,
The other misaligned;
To see all of our weaknesses
As faults to meet with love,
To see through hatred to the fear,
And through that to distrust.
If children cheat, use drugs, or lie
A mother still can see
The goodness in them and just why
Such problems are conceived.
To kill or stun with taser guns
Just escalates the stress,
When what the victim needs the most
Is love and peacefulness.
To bomb them, hate them, does no good;
It’s better patiently
To kindly guide them to the sun,
For they have faults like we.
To bolster war, believe in hate
Is blasphemy to Her,
The Mother Earth the Goddess who’s
Now crushed beyond all words.
Yes, cards and flowers mean so much,
But it would mean much more
To share a planet where love reigned
And beauty, joy, not war.
Until events like these arise
I’ll know that Mother’s Day
Is shallow consolation for
A world not gone Her way.
Kristin Y. Christman is author of The Taxonomy of Peace. She has degrees in Russian and public administration from Dartmouth, Brown, and the University at Albany. https://sites.google.com/site/paradigmforpeace
A powerful new film on what's wrong with the U.S. media is now being screened around the country. It's called Shadows of Liberty and you can set up a screening of it as part of an upcoming international week of actions for whistleblowers called Stand Up For Truth. Or you can buy the DVD or catch it on Link TV. (Here in Charlottesville I'll be speaking at the event, May 19, 7 p.m. at The Bridge.)
Judith Miller is on a rehabilitative book tour; the Washington Post recently reported that a victim of Baltimore police murder broke his own spine; and recently leaked emails from the State Department asked Sony to entertain us into proper war support. The proposed merger of Comcast and Time Warner was just blocked, for now, but the existence of those mega-monopolies in their current form is at the root of the problem, according to Shadows of Liberty.
Allowing for-profit companies to decide what we learn about the world and our government, allowing those companies to consolidate into a tiny cartel controlling the formerly public airwaves, allowing them to be owned by much larger companies that rely on the government for weapons contracts, and allowing them to determine politicians' access to the public and to bribe politicians with "campaign contributions" -- this, in the analysis of Shadows of Liberty, this subservience of public space to private profit is what creates news that misinforms, that takes no interest in the poor, that propagandizes for wars, and that shuts out any journalist who steps out of line.
The film is not primarily analysis, but example. The first example is of Roberta Baskin's reports for CBS on Nike's labor abuses in Asia. CBS killed her big story in exchange for Nike paying CBS so much money that CBS agreed to have all of its "journalists" wear Nike logos during their olympics "coverage."
Another example from CBS in the film is the shooting down of TWA flight 800 by the U.S. Navy, a case of media cowardice and government intimidation, which I wrote about here. As Shadows of Liberty points out, CBS was at the time owned by Westinghouse which had big military contracts. As a for-profit business, there was no question where it would side between one good reporter and the Pentagon. (This is exactly why the owner of the Washington Post shouldn't be someone with much larger funding flowing in from the CIA.)
The New York Timesseemed impressed by an earlier film devoted entirely to the TWA flight 800 mass-killing. The Times favored a new investigation but lamented the supposed lack of any entity that could credibly perform an investigation. The U.S. government comes off as so untrustworthy in the film that it can't be trusted to re-investigate itself. So a leading newspaper, whose job it ought to be to investigate the government, feels at a loss for what to do without a government that can credibly and voluntarily perform the media's own job for it and hold itself accountable. Pathetic. If only Nike were offering to pay the New York Times to investigate the government!
Another example in the bad media highlight reel in Shadows of Liberty is the case of Gary Webb's reporting on the CIA and crack cocaine, also the subject of a recent movie. Another is, inevitably, the propaganda that launched the 2003 attack on Iraq. I just read an analysis of Judith Miller's role that blamed her principally for not correcting her "mistakes" when the lies were exposed. I disagree. I blame her principally for publishing claims that were ludicrous at the time and which she never would have published if made by any non-governmental entity or any of 199 of the 200 national governments on earth. Only the U.S. government gets that treatment from its U.S. media partners in crime -- and in fact only certain elements within the U.S. government. While Colin Powell lied to the world and much of the world laughed, but the U.S. media bowed down, his son pushed through yet more media consolidation. I agree with the recommendation of Shadows of Liberty to blame the media owners, but that doesn't subtract any blame from the employees.
To the credit of Shadows of Liberty it includes among the stories it tells some examples of complete media silence. The story of Sibel Edmonds, for example, was totally whited out by the U.S. mega-media, although not abroad. Another example would be Operation Merlin (the CIA's giving of nuclear plans to Iran), not to mention the extension of Operation Merlin to Iraq. Dan Ellsberg says in the film that a government official will tell the big newspapers to leave a story alone, and the other outlets will "follow the lead of silence."
The U.S. public airwaves were given to private companies in 1934 with big limits on monopolies later stripped out by Reagan and Clinton and the Congresses that worked with them. The 1996 Telecom Act signed by Clinton created the mega-monopolies that have destroyed local news and already guaranteed his wife a 2016 presidential nomination on the basis of the money she'll spend on TV ads.
The bad media's greatest hits are finding a miniature progressive echo-chamber but are not, in fact, isolated cases. Rather they are extreme examples that have taught lessons to countless other "journalists" who have sought to keep their jobs by never stepping out of line in the first place.
The problem with the corporate media is not particular incidents, but how it always reports on everything including the government (which always means well) and wars (there must always be more) and the economy (it must grow and enrich investors) and people (they are helpless and powerless). The particular story lines that do the most damage are not always inherently the worst. Rather, they are those that make it into the general corporate echo-chamber.
The Washington Post sometimes admits exactly what it does wrong but counts on most people never to notice, because such articles will not be repeated and discussed in all the papers and on all the shows.
According to Shadows of Liberty, 40-70% of "news" is based on ideas that come from corporate PR departments. Another good chunk, I suspect, comes from government PR departments. A plurality in the U.S. in the last poll I saw believed Iraq had benefitted from the war on Iraq and was grateful. A Gallup poll of 65 countries at the end of 2013 found the U.S. widely believed the be the greatest threat to peace on earth, but within the U.S., as a glaring result of nothing but ludicrous propaganda, Iran was deemed worthy of that honor.
The Tonight Show regularly asks people if they can name a senator and then if they can name some cartoon character, etc., showing that people know stupid stuff. Ha ha. But that's how the corporate media shapes people, and clearly the U.S. government doesn't object enough to do anything about it. If nobody knows your name, they won't be protesting you anytime soon. And there's never any need to worry about being reelected.
Shadows of Liberty is long on problem and short on solution, but its value is in exposing people to an understanding of the problem. And the solution offered is just right, as far as it goes. The solution offered is to keep the internet open and use it. I agree. And one of the ways in which we ought to use it is to popularize foreign reporting on the United States that outdoes domestic reporting. If media tends to report well only on nations in which it is not based, and yet it's all equally accessible online, we need to start finding and reading the media about our country produced in others. In the process, perhaps we can develop some sense of caring what 95% of humanity thinks about this 5%. And in that process perhaps we can weaken nationalism just a bit.
Independent media is the solution proposed, not public media, and not a restoration of the corporate media to its earlier not-quite-so-awful form. The shrinking of newsrooms is to be lamented, of course, but perhaps the recruitment of foreign news rooms and independent bloggers can mitigate that loss in a way that imploring the monopolists to do better won't achieve. I think that part of the solution is creating better independent media, but part of it is finding, reading, appreciating, and using independent and foreign media. And part of that shift in attitude should be dropping the absurd idea of "objectivity," understood as point-of-viewlessness. Another part should be redefining our reality to exist without the blessing of the corporate media, so that we can be inspired to build activist movements whether or not they are on corporate TV. This includes, of course, persuading independent media to invest in stories that are ignored by corporations, not just focus on retelling in a better way the stories the corporations tell wrong.
Independent media has long been the most bang we could get for a buck donated to a useful cause. The next year-and-a-half is a real opportunity, because a completely broken U.S. election system expects hundreds of millions of dollars from well-meaning people to be given to candidates to give to the TV networks to whom we gave our airwaves. What if we withheld some of that money and built up our own media and activism structures? And why think of the two (media and activism) as separate? I think the jury is still out on The Intercept as new independent media, but it's already far superior to the Washington Post.
No independent media will be perfect. I wish Shadows of Liberty didn't glorify the American revolution to sounds of cannon fire. Later we hear President Reagan calling the Contras "the moral equivalent of our founding fathers" while the film shows dead bodies -- as if the American revolution produced none of those. But the point that free press, as theoretically provided by the first amendment, is critical to self-governance is right on. The first step in creating freedom of the press is publicly identifying its absence and the causes.
The Lasting Pain from Vietnam Silence
May 1, 2015
Editor Note: Many reflections on America’s final days in Vietnam miss the point, pondering whether the war could have been won or lamenting the fate of U.S. collaborators left behind. The bigger questions are why did the U.S. go to war and why wasn’t the bloodletting stopped sooner, as ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern reflects.
By Ray McGovern
Ecclesiastessays there is a time to be silent and a time to speak. The fortieth anniversary of the ugly end of the U.S. adventure in Vietnam is a time to speak – and especially of the squandered opportunities that existed earlier in the war to blow the whistle and stop the killing.
Keeping the Pentagon honest: 40 Years After the Liberation of Vietnam, Washington is Saying it was a US Victory and a Good War
By Dave Lindorff
In this podcast of the latest "This Can't Be Happening!" weekly broadcast on PRN.fm, ThisCantBeHappening.net collective member John Grant, a Vietnam War veteran and long-time peace activist, talks with show host Dave Lindorff about a Veterans for Peace campaign to counter the Pentagon's latest PR initiative to rewrite and distort the history of the Vietnam War. Grant says the VFP's Vietnam War Full Disclosure Project is calling out the Pentagon to correct the historical falsehoods in its multi-million-dollar 50th Year Commemoration of the Vietnam War propaganda program.
Our rights are forgotten: The Government/Corporate Encryption Debate is About How Best to Spy on You
By Alfredo Lopez
A debate, going on in the quasi-private and well-catered halls of government-corporate collusion, has reached the post-smoldering stage. It's now a virtual forest fire in full public view.
It pits government spies against corporate cannibals and is about the often misunderstood and somewhat tedious issue of encryption.
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
On April 7, Wisconsin's Board of Commissioners of Public Lands voted 2-1 to ban those employed by the agency from doing any work pertaining to climate change or global warming while doing public lands related work.
Real-time photo evidence of a cop planting evidence on his victim: Killer Cops like Officer Slager Must be Called to Account
By Dave Lindorff
As Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting points out, until a video surfaced of South Carolina policeman Michael Slager murdering Walter Scott, the media was reporting a package of lies manufactured by the police: a fight that never occurred, witnesses who didn't exist, the victim taking the policeman's taser, etc. The lies collapsed because the video appeared.
I find myself asking why videos of missiles blowing children into little bits and pieces can't dissolve the stories churned out by the Pentagon. With several qualifications, I think part of the answer is that there are not enough videos. The struggle for the right to videotape the police at home in the United States should be accompanied by a campaign to provide video cameras to populations targeted for wars. Of course the struggle to videotape people dying under a bombing campaign is at least as great a challenge as videotaping a murderous policeman, but enough cameras would produce some footage.
There are other parts to the answer as well, of course. One is complexity, exacerbated by intentional obfuscation. To explain the current war in Yemen, the Washington Post finds someone to quote saying, "nobody can figure out either who started this fight or how to end it."
Really? Nobody? The second U.S.-armed dictator in the past few years is overthrown by militants empowered by opposition to U.S.-armed dictatorship. This after a Yemeni man told the U.S. Congress to their faces that the U.S. drone strikes were empowering terrorists. A larger neighboring U.S.-armed dictatorship in Saudi Arabia starts bombing and threatening to take over, as in nearby U.S.-armed dictatorship Bahrain. Saudi U.S. weapons are destroying piles of Yemeni U.S. weapons, and nobody can figure anything out?
Here are some U.S. children hiding from Soviet nukes many years ago, and a Yemeni child hiding from U.S. drone strikes more recently (source). How does that alone not indict anyone?
Here are photos and stories of innocent children murdered with U.S. drones in Yemen. How does that not indict anyone?
Beyond complexity and obfuscation and the justification of pretended rationales and euphemized explanations like "collateral damage," lies the problem of getting Americans to give a damn about people far away. But the U.S. government is horrified by the idea of releasing more photos and videos of torture in Abu Ghraib. It seems that direct, personal violence, even short of murder, is seen as more offensive than mass-murder by aerial assault.
I think these weaknesses in how visual documentation of killing in war is perceived can be overcome, and that in fact a greater volume of videos and photos obtained more rapidly could have a qualitative impact. Most Americans imagine a video like collateral murder to be an exception. Most have no idea at all that U.S. wars are one-sided slaughters killing primarily civilians and overwhelmingly the people who live where the wars are fought. One video of a family being dismembered by a bomb could be dismissed as accidental. Tens of thousands of such videos could not be.
Of course, logically, war victim selfie videos ought not to be needed. It's no secret that the U.S. wars on Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan and Yemen and Libya have fueled greater violence and failed utterly to drop little baskets of liberty and democracy on the people being burned to death. It ought to be no secret that 80 to 90 percent of the weapons in the supposedly inherently violent region of the Middle East are U.S.-made. The White House does not deny that it has significantly increased weapons sales to that region among others. With no plan for success and open confession that "there is no military solution" it rushes more weapons into war after war with no end in sight.
But words don't seem to do the job. Explaining that police were getting away with murder wasn't producing any indictments. A video finally indicted a cop. Now we need the video that can indict the world's policeman.
NY Times covers up Washington’s monstrous evil: Hiding America’s War Crimes in Laos, While Reporting on the Grim Results
By Dave Lindorff
By Dave Lindorff
When I lived in China, there was a story going ‘round about a China Airlines flight in which both the pilot and the co-pilot had left the cockpit and then, on their return, found the door locked. They reportedly got a fire ax, and with the whole planeload of freaked out passengers watching, started wailing at the door. The co-pilot then turned, and seeing the panic developing, calmly drew the curtain across the aisle, hiding their work from view. The axe bashing continued until they broke the latch and got back to the controls.
10. This sort of argument for debunking Islam in the media as the best way to "defeat" ISIS/ISIL misses the fact that ISIS recruits from the United States make up almost certainly much less than 1% of recruits, so that 99% of the problem, even on its own terms, remains completely unsolved.
9. Even if failure to expose Islam and other religions as ancient myths lacking basis in reality were a significant cause of people joining ISIS, it would not approach the primary cause without which ISIS would not exist, namely U.S. violence in the Middle East. Explaining to would-be ISIS martyrs that there aren't really 72 virgins and isn't really a heaven couldn't possibly do as much to reduce ISIS recruitment as explaining to active and would-be members of the U.S. military that arming and bombing and drone-striking distant lands doesn't actually protect the United States but rather generates so much hostility against it that groups like ISIS produce full-length films imploring the U.S. military to attack it.
8. Of course religion is often a huge part of what motivates members of the U.S. military as well. Congressman Sam Johnson has introduced the "Preserve and Protect God in Military Oaths Act of 2015," to force cadets at the Air Force Academy to say "so help me God" in their oaths. Ted Cruz just announced his campaign for the U.S. presidency at Liberty University, where students learn to drone-murder for Jesus. What is "our best weapon" against that?
7. U.S. recruits to ISIS enamored of Muslim martyrdom could just as well have risked their lives preaching Islam in Alabama. Why choose to risk their lives attacking U.S. troops? The reason is not simply a variety of Islam. Rather it is alienation from the United States. Anwar Al-Awlaki was plenty Muslim when he supported U.S. wars. It was U.S. racism, bigotry, brutality, and militarism that drove him into opposition to the U.S. -- which tragically took the form of advocating violence.
6. Bill Maher pushes racism and bigotry, even concentration camps. The idea that such attitudes are the best response to Islamic hostility and violence is outrageously naive. Were Maher advocating inclusiveness and community at home and abroad, I might take seriously the idea that he was helping.
5. Who is the group to which "Our" is applied in the phrase "our best weapon"? As a human I want an answer to ISIS that works for people in the United States, Europe, Iraq, Syria, and the rest of that region, including Sunnis, and including members of ISIS. The idea that a new war on ISIS is going to repair the damage of the previous wars, which created ISIS, is sadly delusional (but if it leads President Obama to make peace with Iran, I'll take that result gratefully).
4. What is the "weapon" in "our best weapon"? When speech is understood as a weapon it ceases to be useful as speech. Religion is declining in the West and even in the United States, but thinking of those still clinging to it as wartime enemies is exactly the wrong way to advance that process. Thinking of an actual war that has numerous motivations as a struggle over religious beliefs will, likely as not, cause those sympathetic to one side or the other to adopt those beliefs or to hold them more firmly.
3. Highlighting stories of a small number of would-be U.S. recruits is propaganda aimed at instilling fear and suggesting a local presence and an actual threat from what is after all a small and very distant group of people.
2. Such propaganda hides actual motivations and causes. Causes hidden include: past wars on Iraq, sectarian divisions created by those wars, poverty and desperation, regional power grabs, international power grabs, the flow of weapons into the region (largely from the United States), the brutality and cruelty and incompetence of the government of Iraq, the weapons and trainers provided by the United States to the "moderate" groups that cease to be moderate or that surrender to those that are not. Motivations include: rage, hunger, fear, the desire for revenge, the desire to see the United States leave the region, the desire to achieve power or safety or riches, the profit motives of the weapons sellers and oil barons, and the belief that violence can be used to end violence.
1. Hiding the primary problems keeps us from seeing the primary solutions. Each of these steps would work wonders compared to telling U.S. television viewers that Islam isn't true: Ceasing to ship weapons to the region; urging an arms embargo on all parties; negotiating a ceasefire with all regional parties including Iran and Russia; sending in a major contingent of nonviolent peaceworkers and human shields, independent journalists, aid workers, and nonviolent activist trainers; providing reparations and aid on a Marshall Plan scale; negotiating a WMD-free Middle East. If those steps were being taken well, I'd be all for finding time to critique religions.
Making enemies by droning on and on: It’s Guilt that has US Military and Embassy Staff Fleeing Yemen Like Scared Rats
By Dave Lindorff
I’m the first to admit that I don’t know all that much about Yemen, or about the Houthi rebels who have taken control of Sana’a, the ancient Arab country’s capital, leading to the hasty evacuation of all US military forces (some 250 Special Forces personnel and the staff of the US embassy) from that country located at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula.
I'm just back from a rally in front of the Charlottesville Police Department at which I heard a black UVA student say that black friends were going to think twice about trying to attend UVA after what happened tonight.
Unless more video materializes we won't know exactly what happened, but we know this: a black UVA student needed 10 stitches to the head. The policemen who injured him have made known no injuries to themselves whatsoever. In fact they've charged him with "obstruction of justice without force." However it may be that a young man standing on a sidewalk obstructs justice without using force, one thing seems clear: he didn't use force. He's also not accused of threatening to use force. Rather, he's charged with "profane swearing and/or intoxication," neither of which justifies ANY action by police, much less the sort of brutality that requires 10 stitches and leaves blood on the street.
As an alumnus and a local resident may I humbly request that UVA prosecute the police officers responsible and seek, not a Department of Justice report telling us what we know, but meaningful restorative justice that involves actual understanding and reform by those involved.
I have to confess, I'm getting a little tired of the scandals, UVA. And I don't mean playing a shooter with a broken finger in the ACC tournament. I mean:
Paying your employees so little they need second jobs.
Jumping at a false tale of rape, damaging true accounts among other things damaged.
Hosting forums advocating U.S. war in Syria.
Bringing Blackwater mercenaries, neocon reactionaries, torture defenders, and warmongers of all stripes to speak at the Miller Center.
Sending law students to observe the Guantanamo human experimentation camp, who find nothing to oppose.
Weakening the honor code.
Empowering a corporate board that attempts coups -- a board that meets this coming Tuesday and should be confronted with a plan for serious reform.
I know it wasn't your cops tonight, UVA. Nor was it your cops who assaulted the young woman for buying a case of water. But it's your response that can set things right. We don't need a scapegoat or more cameras or a "study." We need the University to instruct the police that violence will not be tolerated.
The University has an honor code but exists in the midst of a society in which police are being turned into warriors -- and guess who plays the role of the enemy? The rumor is that tonight's victim had a fake ID for entering a bar -- certainly less than honorable, but something millions of people have done for many years without being attacked or brutalized.
There's video of a young woman being attacked by a policeman at the rally tonight protesting the initial crime. Apparently her offense was standing in a street and being unable to move because of the surrounding crowd. This assault is on video and should be prosecuted without delay.
I'm not going to urge you to restore the honorable tradition of your imperialist enslaving rapist founder, UVA. I want your to aspire to something better than you've been. I think you can do it.
By Linn Washington, Jr.
The report released in early March by a panel President Obama appointed to examine serious shortcomings in police practices across America, including the shooting of unarmed people, mostly non-white, listed problems and proposed solutions that are hauntingly similar to those found in a report on police abuses released 47 years ago by another presidential panel.
By Alfredo Lopez
For many people reading this, there are at least two concepts that will offend.
By Dave Lindorff