Tuesday, July 15, 2003

All the president's spin. 

What a roller coaster ride this past weekend. On Friday, with the press hot on the Niger debacle in the state of the union speech, I don't know about ya'll, but my spirits soared. I always worry when I go flying off to the stratosphere, because something always seems to happen to bring my feet right back down to earth. Sure enough, George Tenet decides to take the fall, we find out on Saturday.

What sustained me through that Saturday, was the commentary section of the Daily Kos, and in particular, the comments by someone named Melanie. She immediately recognized that the sword Tenet was falling on was made of rubber, and, that it was possible he is positioning himself, by taking the "blame" for the SOTU, for further revelations and leaks from his agency. Particularly in light of the fact that the 9/11 report was to be made public soon, and contains potentially damaging info regarding the president.

By the end of Saturday and into Sunday, it was clear the media was not going to drop the ball on this one. As one MSNBC reporter said, "this one has legs".

Speaking of the media, I'm reading Howard Zinn right now, Declarations of Independence, and it is clear that the history of our media in this country is not necessarily that of a medium for enlightenment for important issues. The corporate owned media played a huge role in convincing this country that World War 1 was a necessary war, and one the U.S. ought to support, a "war to end all wars", as the "liberal" Woodrow Wilson said.

By the way, the time leading up to WW1 was perhaps our darkest time, besides the McCarthy era, for the oppression of dissent. Zinn writes:

When the U.S. government decided to enter WW1, it did not find an eager army of males, just waiting for an opportunity to vent their "natural" anger against the enemy, to indulge their "natural" inclination to kill. Indeed, there was a large protest movement against entrance into the war, leading Congress to pass punitive legislation for antiwar statements (2,000 people were prosecuted for criticizing the war). The government, besides conscripting men for service on threat of prison and jailing antiwar protesters, had to organize a propaganda campaign, sending 75,000 speakers to give 750,000 speeches in hundreds of towns and cities to persuade people of the rightness of the war.

It is interesting now, because I think the most powerful form of censorship in operation today is that of self-censorship, or should I say, individual thought self-censorship. The goverment doesn't have to arrest dissenters, although it did all across the country during anti-war demonstrations the last several months. There were also thousands of peaceful demonstrations where no arrests occured. Rather, what is pervasive, is a public that refuses to look deeper than the rhetoric spewed by our "leaders".

This is an issue that the internet is directly addressing, in that the access to shared information has tilted the power of political activity towards the average person. This is no small shift, and people are only beginning to flex their political muscles.

There is still the issue of the poor having access to the internet, so that their views can be heard, but that is an issue for the near future.

I'm poor, financially speaking, and I have regular access because of my father's computer, though it is possible if he didn't give a hoot about computers, I would have found a way...

Getting back to Zinn, he writes that there was a strong socialist movement in the time before WW1. There were 100,000 members of the party, and "more than a thousand Socialists had been elected to office in 340 towns and cities" Zinn said.

Zinn estimates that "probably one million Americans read socialist newspapers. There were fifty-five weekly Socialist newspapers in Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas alone; over a hundred socialists were elected to office in Oklahoma ."

Socialist newspapers in my home state of Louisiana, actually being read? We've come a long way towards consolidation of viewpoint in this country. We've largely narrowed our beliefs towards the backing of unfettered capitalism and the two party system. What has resulted is corruption beyond belief in the collusion between the corporations and the government. Just check out TomPaine.Commonsense today, for an article on the direct connection between corporate donors, legislators, and soft money.

I'm not advocating a third party movement at this time. Our most important goal right now is regime change, and our best hope for this is the democratic party. But it would behoove us all to know that there once was a strong socialist movement, and it was fueled by discontent and newspapers, the power of a free press.

We have the power of the internet now, and we have Ralph Nader and the Green party, but we have Ralph Nader's ego as well. In serving his country, he should have dropped out of the race. He wound up serving no one but himself. I do however, support the efforts of the Green party members to run for local and statewide offices. This is probably where they could do the most good.

WW1 killed the socialist party, when the government cracked down and arrested dissenters. Now some socialist issues such as universal health care and public financing of campaigns have become mainstream issues, in no small measure from the effect and power of the internet. I bet the Republicans had wished Al Gore had done anything but invent the internet. Just kidding.

It's damn expensive to print a newspaper, but if one can sit at a neighbor's computer, or one at the local library, one can have an effect on world opinion. I'm not exaggerating folks. Word of mouth spreads fast in this digital age, and it is difficult to hide the truth when so many digital eyes are fastened upon it.

It looks like the president won't be able to spin his way out of this one. There are just too many ordinary Americans, with or without digital access, learning and yearning to take apart the spin. During the photo-op yesterday in the White House, Bush's smirk was gone, and he looked like a man cornered.

I suppose my greatest fear right now is this North Korean nightmare, and that the administration will launch some kind of military strike against that nation, bringing us to the brink of a nuclear exchange of some kind.

Yes, North Korea sells munitions to rogue states, but aren't we one of the biggest, if not the biggest, arms dealer in the world? If it were illegal to sell arms to other nations, what a different world it would be. If only...

Yesterday, the conservative Tacitus posted on one of the Daily Kos commentaries, and initiated an interesting exchange between his conservative supporters and progressives. I suppose he was feeling just a little insecure, what with recent developments and everything. I thought it was healthy and helpful, the exchange that he sparked, in that it is difficult for the two sides to communicate with each other without shouting each other down, like we see on the talking head shows on TV. The internet could be another powerful medium for bringing people with divergent viewpoints together, and get them at least talking.

I propose we eliminate the term "troll", and encourage each other to visit and comment on each other's sites, beginning some sort of dialogue. More communication is the answer, not less.

Anyway, those are my thoughts since Black Thursday for George Bush.