Wednesday, July 12

You Want Toughness? Ask for Democracy Now!

Despite the highly successful propaganda that makes many Americans believe that "the media is liberal," when actual liberals try to determine how it is that so many Americans have been led to vote against their own economic self-interests by right-wing war-mongers and corporate fat cats, the most solid hypothesis liberals can settle upon is that the same war profiteers and corporate tycoons just happen to control 95 percent or more of widely-diffused media in the land (not to mention abroad). The most reasonable conclusion they can draw from this is that, to better educate their fellow citizens, they should see that, in one way or another, the media does actually start to reflect concerns that are not only "liberal," where this means a well-defined voting block of progressive voters and issues, but "liberal," where this means "representing the overwhelming majority in its undisputable economic self-interests."

Soldier in Warsaw Who Never Saw War (photo by terrette)

Given this scenario, which I have stumbled into time and again as a blogger and in other folds of my existence, the least I can do, it seems to me, is to point out that Democracy Now! is an incredible resource for anyone who understands the mission, as set down in the Constitution of the United States, of the so-called fourth estate (as Carlyle first understood the term). In other words, if anyone, of whatever political stripe, acknowledges that the press should be critical of power and not take government press releases, speeches, and other potential tools of propaganda, at face value, then compare, will you, the coverage on virtually any issue of national importance as covered by the big-mouth, noise-punctured, intelligence-insulting, busty-and-bar-belled packaging it gets from the networks, from the incisive and penetrating analysis and healthy cynicism that Democracy Now! provides consistently, and all on the strength of a small, financially-strapped team of devoted citizens.

We've seen for years the Republican Party try to monopolize images of manliness, bravado, machismo, testosterone, and toughness... even to the point where Michael Moore, in a recent speech, gave credence to this well-organized posture of bulging masculinity and steadfastness on the extreme Right. The truth, however, puts the posture to shame. One could easily replay the well-known history of the many chicken hawks within the Republic Party who always preach war when, in their youth, they dodged the call to fight, or who always preach increased profits for the few bosses and increased hardships for the many laborers, when we know that they never worked an honest minute of their lives and have only ever lived in a seat of luxury secured by few merits or little toil of their own. But I would rather point to the voices of these different camps and draw attention to the types of lives they have led and, on the basis of that comparison, ask who is truly tough.

Pick your info-babe from anywhere in the vast world of hyped-up-corporate-entertainment-disguised-as-news-as-we-used-to-know-it-
in-some-semi-mythical-past and ask yourself, what has this primped up air-head ever undertaken in her life that could even come close to the notion of courage? For that matter, pick your loud-mouthed angry white guy from the next corporate dial over, and ask, has this bitchy little multi-millionaire prick ever put himself in front of a hostile weapon, or defied unjust powers that were far greater than he, simply because those powers were unjust? If you can name me a single example, please do so.

The big-mouths and pretty faces have been paid off and market-tested long before any dignity has been won by any of them. Moreover, being paid off as they all are assures us that dignity and courage will forever remain catch-phrases for them, rather than elements of their own character and experience. Georges Monbiot, author and editorial writer for the Guardian, has written some memorable lines under the rubric of "careers advice" for journalists.

This career path [that is, the path set out by journalism schools everywhere and tailored for a job in the mighty halls hysterical network self-promotion that we have all learned to call "news"]... is counter-educational. It teaches you to do what you don't want to do, to be what you don't want to be. It is an exceptional person who emerges from this process with her aims and ideals intact. Indeed it is an exceptional person who emerges from this process at all. What the corporate or institutional world wants you to do is the complete opposite of what you want to do. It wants a reliable tool, someone who can think, but not for herself: who can think instead for the institution. You can do what you believe only if that belief happens to coincide with the aims of the corporation, not just once, but consistently, across the years (it is a source of wonder to me how many people's beliefs just happen to match the demands of institutional power, however those demands may twist and turn, after they've been in the company for a year or two).
Indeed. And it's no wonder that Georges Monbiot is one of the many, many voices that is often featured on Democracy Now! From his online biography, we read of Monbiot that,

During seven years of investigative journeys in Indonesia, Brazil and East Africa, he was shot at, beaten up by military police, shipwrecked and stung into a poisoned coma by hornets. He came back to work in Britain after being pronounced clinically dead in Lodwar General Hospital in north-western Kenya, having contracted cerebral malaria. In Britain, he joined the roads protest movement. He was hospitalised by security guards, who drove a metal spike through his foot, smashing the middle bone.
Now, compare that track record to all the Hollywood-packaged toughness of Arnold Schwarzenegger, who needs to own something like 17 SUVS to assure himself that, off-screen, too, he is a big, tough guy. The host of Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman, was severely beaten with rifle butts by thugs from the U.S.-backed and U.S.-supplied Indonesian Army as she stood between them and defenseless and non-violent protestors from East Timor, who were out marching to show their opposition to the violence of the occupying forces. The report Goodman filed with the reporter whose skull was crushed in the same incident is presented in her book, The Exception to the Rulers.

"Conservatives" and Green Bay Packer fans out there who feel that you can solidify your manhood by latching onto the block-heads in the Republican Party better think twice about who is truly tough, and who is just play-acting. Who was tougher in 1930s Germany? The henchmen who oiled Hitler's way to power and had their butts wiped by brown shirts, or the few journalists who resisted the onslaught of fascism and paid for it with imprisonment, exile, or the firing squad?

Not that I NEED toughness and courage in every figure who undertakes journalism... it's just that, in setting out to write this post, I find myself in a far-off land from which my appreciation for Democracy Now! has grown by the week. It is, after all, a sign of political health in the plutocratic regime known as the United States that a widely-available engine of news and critical thought is produced in New York City without intervention from the State (the same State that did not hesitate to bomb the headquarters of Al-Jazeera when that news engine dared to report the misdeeds and brutalities of U.S. commanders in Fallujah).

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Monday, July 10

Stumbling upon the pre-industrial farming era

Poland and, in the background, the Czech Republic