Ron Paul on CNN 04.28.08 (video)

Dandelion Salad

mmortal03

Ron Paul talking about his new book, the Republicrats, the national debt, the Federal Reserve, non-intervention, John McCain, subsidization, inflation, the free market economy, and his overwhelming support at the recent Nevada Republican convention

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h/t: x Timothy Michael x ~ L.O.™. ~

US intelligence on Syrian reactor: justifying last year’s crime to prepare for new ones

Dandelion Salad

By Peter Symonds
http://www.wsws.org
28 April 2008

More than seven months after Israeli warplanes destroyed a building in Syria’s eastern desert, the Bush administration has released intelligence purporting to prove that Damascus was building a nuclear reactor at the site, with the assistance of North Korea, as part of plans to build an atomic bomb.

The CIA intelligence briefing last Thursday raised more questions than it answered, and fuelled considerable speculation about its timing and purpose. In all the commentary, however, the most obvious point is deliberately obscured. The US is belatedly justifying an unprovoked and illegal act of aggression by Israel, undoubtedly sanctioned at the time by Washington, that had the potential to spark a new war in the Middle East.

A White House statement hypocritically warned that Syria’s covert construction of the reactor was “a dangerous and potentially destabilising development for the region and the world”, carried out in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). It is an open secret, however, that Israel, with Washington’s tacit approval, has covertly manufactured a substantial arsenal of nuclear weapons, refused to sign the NPT and blocked International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections of its facilities.

…continued

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

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Pepe Escobar: What did Israel bomb in Syria? (video)

Evolving US Military Agenda: Black Hole in Bush’s Brain

Evidence-based Bombing By Scott Ritter

US ship confronts boats in Gulf + Iranian Boats shot at by U.S. Navy (video)

An Act Of War – Interview: Seymour Hersh

McCain: I will follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell + McCain’s Serious Foreign Policy

Dandelion Salad

m8j43dw6

Senator John McCain comments on Osama bin Laden during a rally in Tampa, FL on January 28th, 2008.

Continue reading

UN rapporteur talks about the global food crisis (vid)

Dandelion Salad

MegaNewsbreak

The United Nations is expected to reveal a so-called battle plan to tackle the growing global food crisis.

The meeting in Switzerland on Monday comes after a warning from the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food.

Jean Ziegler says biofuels are a crime against humanity. Al Jazeera asked him to give us his personal view on exactly what’s wrong with the system right now.

Continue reading

Pentagon TV Scandal: Media Fails To Ask Hard Questions

Dandelion Salad

Veracifier

More at http://www.theuptake.org
You’d think news that the Pentagon secretly infiltrated TV news shows with propaganda about the Iraq invasion packaged as fact would be a huge story. It was in the New York Times which broke the story. But on TV, particularly the networks that were duped by the Pentagon, coverage of the story was short-lived.

Matt Thompson of FreePress.net reports the hard questions in this scandal haven’t been answered, because they haven’t been asked.

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see

Tomgram: Petraeus, Falling Upwards By Tom Engelhardt

The neoconning of a nation: Vice-President, shilling troupe of retired generals, deliver fantastic tales for their cause

PBS: TV Generals Pentagon Propagandist & It’s Illegal!

Max and the Marginalized: Whose Face Can You Save

NYT on the Pentagon’s Puppets (video)

Pentagon pundits jeopardize America’s Free Press (Action Alert; vid)

Pentagon Propaganda & Antiwar Analysts

Major revelation: US media deceitfully disseminates government propaganda

Reverend Wright Delivers the Knockout Punch By Mike Whitney

Dandelion Salad

By Mike Whitney
04/28/08 “ICH”

“Yes, there have been death threats on both myself and on Pastor Moss. And bomb threats at the church.” Reverend Jeremiah Wright on the media’s incitement; “Bill Moyers Journal” PBS

Reverend Jeremiah Wright appeared on PBS Bill Moyers Journal on Friday night and delivered a knockout punch to the bully-boys in the corporate media. It was an impressive performance that left the political assassins over at FOX News choking on their sausage-rolls. Wright showed that he is neither a fanatic nor an “America hater”; just an extremely well-read and principled man with an unshakable commitment to justice. Wright has also paid his dues; he’s an ex-Marine who served in Vietnam when most of his critics were either hiding behind their student deferments or languishing in the “Champagne Unit” of the Texas National Guard. He’s earned the right to say whatever he chooses.

Rev. Jeremiah Wright:

“And the United States of America government, when it came to treating her citizens of Indian descent fairly, she failed. She put them on reservations. When it came to treating her citizens of Japanese descent fairly, she failed. She put them in internment prison camps. When it came to treating citizens of African descent fairly, America failed. She put them in chains. The government put them on slave quarters, put them on auction blocks, put them in cotton fields, put them in inferior schools, put them in substandard housing, put them in scientific experiments, put them in the lowest paying jobs, put them outside the equal protection of the law, kept them out of their racist bastions of higher education and locked them into position of hopelessness and helplessness. The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law, and then wants us to sing God bless America? No, no, no. Not God bless America; God damn America!

No one disputes Wright’s summary of US history. His comments have simply been taken out of context to beat up on Barack Obama; everyone knows that. Just like everyone knows that the media has been retooled to destroy political enemies, which means anyone who poses a challenge to America’s unelected corporate oligarchy. That’s why it is so frustrating to hear people say, “The media is not doing its job.”

That’s just plain wrong; the media IS doing its job. It’s cheerleading the country to war, it is diverting attention from the main political and economic issues of the day, and it is destroying its political enemies. That’s what it’s paid to do. Its foolish to think the media should perform differently because of the PR nonsense about a “free press”. The media gets its marching orders from its corporate managers; that’s who issues the paychecks on Fridays. It’s their agenda that counts, not ours. The political assassination of Barack Obama just happens to be on the top of their list this week. That’s why the media is zeroing in on Rev. Wright; he is the sacrificial lamb.

What the media is trying to do by singling out Wright is to make it look like blacks are outside of the mainstream and hostile to white American society. It’s all pretty straightforward. They’re trying to create the impression that blacks conceal a deep sense of grievance which expresses itself in rage. This generates feelings of fear among whites which, of course, is all part of the strategy. The message is simple; “blacks are angry, blacks are dangerous” and, oh by the way, Obama is black.

Is it fair to say that that is essentially a racist message?

What’s so clever about the attack on Wright is that it was set up in a way to make it look like the Reverend—a man whose entire career has been devoted to social justice—is a racist. That took a bit of maneuvering. In fact, the media, and their friends at the right-wing think tanks, had to dig through 15 years of Wright’s sermons to find just the right snippets they needed to destroy Obama. Now that’s determination! The attacks on Wright bear all the earmarks of a well-engineered Karl Rove-type operation. Nothing has been left to chance. All the mud-slinging and poisonous innuendo has been arranged with the greatest attention to detail and with real professionalism. These guys are pros. They know what it takes to ruin people and they are good at it.

They decided the best way to go-after Obama was by using his “blackness” against him. It took considerable skill to invoke the “race card” without being discovered. The tables were turned in a way that made it look like Wright and his parishioners were the racists and whites were merely blameless bystanders. That’s the real genius of the Wright smear-campaign.

For more than 5 months Obama had been able to run on a campaign on issues and experience, but the attacks on Wright have changed all of that. Now the public sees Obama as a black man; at least that’s the intention. Race has become one of the dominant issues on the campaign-trail and Obama routinely fends off charges that blacks foster a hidden resentment towards whites because of the way they have been mistreated. Obama is no longer just a man running for office; now he’s a black man. That’s how swift-boating works. Like they say in the Godfather; “It’s not personal; it’s just business”. The business of personal destruction.

Fortunately, Bill Moyers, one of the giants of journalism, decided to give Wright a chance to acquit himself before the public. Wright took the opportunity and made the most of it.

Rev. Wright:

“God is the giver of life. Let me tell you what that means. That means we have no right to take a life whether as a gang-banger living the thug life, or as a President lying about leading a nation into war. We have no right to take a life! Whether through the immorality of a slave trade, or the immorality of refusing HIV/AIDS money to countries or agencies who do not tow your political line! We have no right to take a life!”

Wright showed that the doctrine he preaches, Black Liberation Theology, is neither discriminatory nor racist as the media has suggested. Rather, it integrates the teachings of Jesus Christ with the real-time struggle for social justice and equality. Compassion is not possible if one does not have a grasp of one’s own culture and identity. That’s why Wright tries to reconnect his congregation to their roots, so they can be proud of who they are and have more productive lives.

Rev. Wright:

“You know, you come into the average church on a Sunday morning and you think you’ve stepped from the real world into a fantasy world. And what do I mean by that?” He said pick up the church bulletin. You leave a world, Vietnam, or today you leave a world, Iraq, over 4,000 dead, American boys and girls, 100,000, 200,000 depending on which count, Iraqi dead. Afghanistan, Darfur, rapes in the Congo, Katrina, Lower Ninth Ward, that’s the world you leave. And you come in; you pick up your church bulletin. It says, there is a ladies tea on second Sunday. He said, “How come the faith preached in our churches does not relate to the world in which our church members leave at the benediction?”

This is the essence of Black Liberation Theology; how to make sense of the world we live in so the word of Christ can be applied in practice. Wright thinks that faith should be a transforming experience that changes behavior and shapes lives, not just a few hours of prayer every week at Sunday services. Does that make it “a race-based theology? (as Moyers asks)

Rev. Wright:

“No, it is not. It is embracing Christianity without giving up Africanity. …We’re not givin’ up who we are as black people to become somebody else…No mas. Nada mas. We’re gonna be ourselves. We’re gonna be our culture. We’re gonna be our history. And we’re gonna embrace it and not say one is superior to the other. Because we are different. And different does not mean deficient. We talk about God of diversity? God has diverse culture and we’re proud of who we are and that’s not a race-based theology.”

Wright has also been skewered in the media for suggesting there may be a connection between American foreign policy and the attacks of 9-11. The media considers any analysis that doesn’t square with Bush’s crackpot “they hate our freedoms” theory to be either anti-American or outright heresy. In his most famous sermon, Wright elaborates on the “blowback” theme as well as the so-called war on terror:

“We took this country by terror away from the Sioux, the Apache, the Arawak, the Comanche, the Arapaho, the Navajo. Terrorism! We took Africans from their country to build our way of ease and kept them enslaved and living in fear. Terrorism! We bombed Grenada and killed innocent civilians, babies, non-military personnel. We bombed the black civilian community of Panama with stealth bombers and killed unarmed teenagers and toddlers, pregnant mothers and hard-working fathers. We bombed Gadafi’s home and killed his child. “Blessed are they who bash your children’s head against a rock!” We bombed Iraq. We killed unarmed civilians trying to make a living. We bombed a plant in Sudan to payback for the attack on our embassy. Killed hundreds of hard-working people; mothers and fathers who left home to go that day, not knowing that they would never get back home. We bombed Hiroshima! We bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye! Kids playing in the playground, mothers picking up children after school, civilians – not soldiers – people just trying to make it day by day. We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and Black South Africans, and now we are indignant? Because the stuff we have done overseas has now been brought back into our own front yards! America’s chickens are coming home to roost! Violence begets violence. Hatred begets hatred and terrorism begets terrorism.”

America has blood on its hands. America, as Martin Luther King said, “is the greatest perpetrator of violence in the world today.” So what else is new?

What’s new, is the media is using every soapbox in the country to preach uber-nationalism and vilify America’s critics as unpatriotic. Their “Love it or leave it” gibberish is being used to tar a presidential candidate who hasn’t sufficiently prostrated himself before his corporate overlords to make them feel that he can be trusted to carry out their directives. That is what’s really happening. Obama is just unpredictable enough to make the parasite class nervous that he might do something crazy, like serve the public interest. That would be a real disaster. It’d be better to install the appalling Ms. Clinton than take a chance on the “populist” Obama. That’s why the wrath of the media has descended on Obama like a Texas hailstorm; they’re afraid he doesn’t understand who really runs things in America.

Wright means nothing to the media or to the men behind the curtain. If he didn’t provide an avenue for denigrating Obama, he’d be treated with the same indifference as the thousands of other blacks who were herded at gunpoint into the Superdome during Hurricane Katrina. It’s Obama’s scalp they want; that’s the real prize. This is a turf war; the big-wigs are defending their fiefdom from interlopers. They’re even rolling out the heavy artillery expecting a full-blown conflagration. The election season is shaping up to be a real donnybrook. Better buckle up. Obama has entered the crosshairs of America’s criminal oligarchy and things are bound to get nasty.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

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Rev Jeremiah Wright Without The Right-Wing Propaganda (vid)

Bill Moyers Journal: Reverend Jeremiah Wright

Mosaic News – 4/25/08: World News from the Middle East

Dandelion Salad

Warning

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This video may contain images depicting the reality and horror of war/violence and should only be viewed by a mature audience.

linktv

For more: http://linktv.org/originalseries
“Israel Rejects Hamas’ Offer,” Al Jazeera English, Qatar
“2 Israelis Killed Near Tulkarem,” IBA TV, Israel
“Hamas Changing Tactics,” Al Arabiya TV, UAE
“Hamas Predicts an End to the Siege,” Al Aqsa, Gaza
“Lebanese Prisoners in Syrian Jails,” New TV, Lebanon
“760 Thousand Iraqi Students Out of Schools,” Dubai TV, UAE
“Iranians Lose Confidence in Parliamentary Elections,” Al Jazeera TV, Qatar
“MIR: The Taming of the Assad (lion),” Link TV, USA
Produced for Link TV by Jamal Dajani.

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FOOD CRISIS: The greatest demonstration of the historical failure of the capitalist model

Syrian ambassador rejects US nuclear charges + The Taming of the Assad (lion) (vids)

FOOD CRISIS: The greatest demonstration of the historical failure of the capitalist model

Dandelion Salad

By Ian Angus
www.socialistvoice.ca
April 28, 2008

“If the government cannot lower the cost of living it simply has to leave. If the police and UN troops want to shoot at us, that’s OK, because in the end, if we are not killed by bullets, we’ll die of hunger.” — A demonstrator in Port-au-Prince, Haiti

In Haiti, where most people get 22% fewer calories than the minimum needed for good health, some are staving off their hunger pangs by eating “mud biscuits” made by mixing clay and water with a bit of vegetable oil and salt.[1] Continue reading

Is Impeachment Possible? by David Swanson (vids)

davidcnswanson

David Swanson speaks on impeaching Dick Cheney.
April 24th, 2008 Town Hall meeting, Grand Lake Theater, Oakland, CA.
David shares his inspiration, insights, humor, latest news, and initiatives for impeachment of Cheney.
How you can get involved in and what you can do to promote and achieve impeachment.

Global Famine: The Lords of Capital Decree Mass Death by Starvation

Dandelion Salad

by Glen Ford
Global Research, April 28, 2008
Black Agenda Report

Having crushed the planet’s peasants and converted food into just another commodity for global manipulation, the Lord’s of Capital have unleashed upon humanity the threat – no, certainty – of mass starvation. The criminal mega-enterprise is centered in the United States, the former “breadbasket of the planet” whose massive conversion to biofuels has caused staple crop prices to skyrocket beyond the reach of hundreds of millions of the world’s poor. The death of millions translates into profits in the trillions for the Lords of Capital, killers on a mass scale whose only talents lie in “the production of overlapping calamities, each more lethal than the last.”

Continue reading

The World Food Crisis By John Nichols

Dandelion Salad

By John Nichols
This article appeared in the May 12, 2008 edition of The Nation.
April 24, 2008

The only surprising thing about the global food crisis to Jim Goodman is the notion that anyone finds it surprising. “So,” says the Wisconsin dairy farmer, “they finally figured out, after all these years of pushing globalization and genetically modified [GM] seeds, that instead of feeding the world we’ve created a food system that leaves more people hungry. If they’d listened to farmers instead of corporations, they would’ve known this was going to happen.” Goodman has traveled the world to speak, organize and rally with groups such as La Via Campesina, the global movement of peasant and farm organizations that has been warning for years that “solutions” promoted by agribusiness conglomerates were designed to maximize corporate profits, not help farmers or feed people. The food shortages, suddenly front-page news, are not new. Hundreds of millions of people were starving and malnourished last year; the only change is that as the scope of the crisis has grown, it has become more difficult to “manage” the hunger that a failed food system accepts rather than feeds.

…continued

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

see

Exposed: the great GM crops myth

Fueling Food Shortages by Ralph Nader + Harry Chapin: Cats In The Cradle

William Clinton & Monsanto – a Team for Mutual Profit

Letter to Hillary about Monsanto connections (02.03.08)

Monsanto’s Harvest of Fear

Bill Moyers Journal: Hunger in America + Exposé Farm Subsidies + Soup Kitchen

Global Famine? Blame the Fed By Mike Whitney

Tomgram: Petraeus, Falling Upwards By Tom Engelhardt

Dandelion Salad

By Tom Engelhardt
TomDispatch
April 27, 2008

Selling the President’s General

The Petraeus Story

You simply can’t pile up enough adjectives when it comes to the general, who, at a relatively young age, was already a runner-up for Time Magazine’s Person of the Year in 2007. His record is stellar. His tactical sense extraordinary. His strategic ability, when it comes to mounting a campaign, beyond compare.

I’m speaking, of course, of General David Petraeus, the President’s surge commander in Iraq and, as of last week, the newly nominated head of U.S. Central Command (Centcom) for all of the Middle East and beyond — “King David” to those of his peers who haven’t exactly taken a shine to his reportedly “high self-regard.” And the campaign I have in mind has been his years’ long wooing and winning of the American media, in the process of which he sold himself as a true American hero, a Caesar of celebrity.

As far as can be told, there’s never been a seat in his helicopter that couldn’t be filled by a friendly (or adoring) reporter. This, after all, is the man who, in the summer of 2004, as a mere three-star general being sent back to Baghdad to train the Iraqi army, made Newsweek’s cover under the caption, “Can This Man Save Iraq?” (The article’s subtitle — with the “yes” practically etched into it — read: “Mission Impossible? David Petraeus Is Tasked with Rebuilding Iraq’s Security Forces. An Up-close Look at the Only Real Exit Plan the United States Has — the Man Himself”).

And, oh yes, as for his actual generalship on the battlefield of Iraq… Well, the verdict may still officially be out, but the record, the tactics, and the strategic ability look like they will not stand the test of time. But by then, if all goes well, he’ll once again be out of town and someone else will take the blame, while he continues to fall upwards. David Petraeus is the President’s anointed general, Bush’s commander of commanders, and (not surprisingly) he exhibits certain traits much admired by the Bush administration in its better days.

Launching Brand Petraeus

Recently, in an almost 8,000 word report in the New York Times, David Barstow offered an unparalleled look inside a sophisticated Pentagon campaign, spearheaded by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, in which at least 75 retired generals and other high military officers, almost all closely tied to Pentagon contractors, were recruited as “surrogates.” They were to take Pentagon “talking points” (aka “themes and messages”) about the President’s War on Terror and war in Iraq into every part of the media — cable news, the television and radio networks, the major newspapers — as their own expert “opinions.” These “analysts” made “tens of thousands of media appearances” and also wrote copiously for op-ed pages (often with the aid of the Pentagon) as part of an unparalleled, five-plus year covert propaganda onslaught on the! American people that lasted from 2002 until, essentially, late last night. Think of it, like a pod of whales or a gaggle of geese, as the Pentagon’s equivalent of a surge of generals.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

see

The neoconning of a nation: Vice-President, shilling troupe of retired generals, deliver fantastic tales for their cause

PBS: TV Generals Pentagon Propagandist & It’s Illegal!

Max and the Marginalized: Whose Face Can You Save

NYT on the Pentagon’s Puppets (video)

Pentagon pundits jeopardize America’s Free Press (Action Alert; vid)

Pentagon Propaganda & Antiwar Analysts

Major revelation: US media deceitfully disseminates government propaganda

How can socialism become reality?

Dandelion Salad

Posted with permission by:
World Socialist Party (US)

www.wspus.org
April 26, 2008

From our website

P.M. writes: “I like the bulk of your ideals. By what means can they become reality?

FNB Replies: It’s our position that socialism can become reality when a majority of the population (primarily the working class) desires socialism and rejects capitalism.

I understand that sounds a rather simplistic answer. But the capitalist class cannot continue it’s rule – even through violence or bribery – when enough workers decide to break with the capitalists’ legitimacy and their system.

Our effort is to get enough workers to understand that socialism is a rejection of the fundamental structures of capitalism – the market, ownership, wages, production, etc. Not only understand but accept socialism as a positive change.

Workers are forced by their living conditions to question capitalism daily. Working people wish they didn’t have to work as hard and want more time with their families. They worry about the earth and the world their children will be inheriting.These days, they worry about keeping warm, keeping fed and keeping their house. They may even resent the pettiness of the ‘stuff’ that capitalism offers for our life’s efforts at work.

Because of these contradictions, socialists are given opportunities everyday to build a new consensus. The more socialists there are, the more ability we will have to take new and different actions to build the new system

But we also need to confront and destroy the capitalist class’ social legitimacy. The WSP believes that the capitalist’s legitimacy comes from their ‘democratic’ rule, thus we believe that the capitalist’s legitimacy can be totally be broken by taking a majority in Congress.

But “capturing” Congress is only a measure of acceptance of socialism and a coup de grace to capitalist rule. The real revolution in social relations will be made in our lives and by ourselves, not congress.

But right now, the movement is quite small and dispersed. So we focus on providing socialist analysis of the issues of the day. We hold meetings and work to break capitalist ideas when we’re involved in social movements (example).

As the movement grows, we’ll be able to be more inventive with our activity and in ways we cannot conceive of today. The WSP does not believe we – the WSP – can create blueprints or maps to the new society, that effort is one that must be left to all the people.

Thanks for writing.

You can now ask the WSP questions about our ideas and the case for socialism. We will attempt to answer all sincere questions. Send your questions to:

ask [at] wspus.org

Click on ASK! in the subject cloud ‘previous posts’ on our site.

Can the media be made democratic?

Dandelion Salad

Posted with permission by:
World Socialist Party (US)

by Steve Trott
http://www.wspus.org
April 23, 2008

(Socialist Standard – March 2008) Since the early twentieth century American journalists have been fascinated by the uneasy relationship between democracy and a media industry that has grown immensely powerful and profitable. The opinion that the democratic process has been undermined – epitomised by declining electoral turnout – by an industry more concerned with increasing corporate profits than the meaningful dissemination of information has repeatedly led to demands for media reform.

In the first part of the twentieth century the American writer and journalist Upton Sinclair drew attention to the corrosive influence of advertising that led newspapers to adapt content to suit powerful sponsors and encourage editorial self-censorship. Sinclair’s book The Brass Check (1919) was a scathing attack on a monopolistic press, in which he said that commercial journalism had become “a class institution serving the rich and spurning the poor,” with the task of “hoodwinking of the public and the plunder of labour”. Brought in some years after the publication of Sinclair’s book, the Federal Communication Act of 1934 was widely seen as the first real attempt to curb media monopoly and reinvigorate the supposedly democratic values embodied in the American Constitution through “public interest, convenience and necessity.” But these and later reforms failed to consider one possibility: What would happen if the government ever saw public information as secondary to free market economics? What would happen if the government actually joined forces with the media to communicate a common ideology that devalued “democracy”?

Media deregulation

According to Bill Moyers, one of America’s best known and respected post-war journalists, this is exactly what happened under the banner of media deregulation. Beginning with Ronald Reagan, deregulation sowed the seeds for a consolidation that eliminated much of the independent media and prompted editorial policy to downgrade the importance of news. But the crowning achievement in the demotion of meaningful news came later with the 1996 Telecommunications Act, which was passed with the support of both political parties. This legislation allowed communications conglomerates and advertisers to join forces to dismantle competition safeguards and devise “new ways of selling things to more people” across the full array of digital and conventional media. Within the media corporations the strategy eliminated remaining divisions between editorial and marketing functions to “create a hybrid known to the new-media hucksters as ‘branded entertainment.’” (Bill Moyers, Journalism and Democracy, Alternative Radio, 8 November 2003).

Moyers’ assessment of the American newspaper industry is equally gloomy. Here, according to a study by the Consumers Federation of America, two-thirds of today’s newspaper markets are monopolies. Not satisfied with this stranglehold, the major newspaper chains have combined with the trade group representing almost all of the broadcasting stations to lobby for further autonomy to extend cross-ownership of media, claiming that this will strengthen local journalism. Moyers notes that in typical fashion none of the organisations involved felt it necessary to report this news, remarking, “they rarely report on how they themselves are using their power to further their own interests and power as big business, including their influence over the political process”. He draws further evidence from the book, Leaving Readers Behind: The Age of Corporate Newspapering, which concludes that the “newspaper industry is in the middle of the most momentous change in its three hundred year history – a change that is diminishing the amount of real news available to the consumer”.

Looking back over American history, Moyers says that during the War of Independence freedom and freedom of communication were the “birth twins in the future United States”, but that today freedom of communication has become an obstacle to corporate profits and has been abandoned. He says that the media that once championed democracy now works hand in glove with government to intentionally undermine democratic values. He identifies certain developments that have ambushed democracy. These include censorship by omission, government refusal to disclose or debate in public, and the overarching power of media giants that “exalt commercial values at the expense of democratic values” to produce “a major shrinkage of the crucial information that thinking people can act upon”.

But according to Moyers perhaps the most repugnant development is the rise of a “quasi-official partisan press ideologically linked to an authoritarian administration that in turn is the ally and agent of the most powerful interests in the world”. This convergence, he says, “dominates the marketplace of political ideas” promoting the “religious, partisan and corporate right” to engage “sectarian, economic and political forces that aim to transform the egalitarian and democratic ideals embodied in our founding documents”. He goes on to provide examples where investigative newsgathering and scrutiny over government, police and the courts has been abandoned to cut costs, avoid institutional embarrassment and maintain this coalition of vested interests. In the absence of a strong opposition party to challenge this hegemony, the task of defending democracy, he says, falls to a reformed media.

The recurrent theme that runs throughout Moyers’ account of the American media is a yearning back to a romanticised “Golden Age”, when a free and independent press kept its subscribers fully informed with important news that enabled them to act. He points to the newspapers at the time of the American War of Independence and in particular to Tom Paine’s pamphlet Common Sense that helped mobilise opposition to the British. Moyers says that as a journalist Paine practised a principle in need of restoration: “an unwavering concentration to reach ordinary people with the message that they mattered and could stand up for themselves.” But was this really a “Golden Age” of democracy or was it, as Sinclair believed, just another instance of the press propagating a class interest under the guise of democracy? Put a different way, has a press free from political or commercial influence ever existed?

Romanticised past

For many, a belief in the abstract democratic ideal is closely linked to the myths surrounding the origin of the Constitution and the founding of America as a separate country. But far from being a revolutionary event that encouraged a genuine development of democratic values, the War of Independence was a strictly conservative affair. The colonial rebellion was not the work of enraged peasants but of landed gentlemen, who argued their case on the principles of the British constitution by demanding free assembly, trial by jury, and no taxation without representation. Despite pretensions of being “enlightened” – sweeping aside monarchy, aristocracy and the established church – the new republic was never designed to be anything other than an oligarchic state. The political institutions and Constitution mirrored instincts of conservatism and constructed an array of checks and balances motivated by paranoia, suspicion of central government power, and religion that laid the foundation for laissez faire economics.

The expulsion of the British eliminated the constraints of the feudal social order substituting in its place the abstract principles that “all men are created equal” and that power is derived from “the will of the people”. The desire to protect and then extend private property rights sanctified by religious superstition led to a type of liberty intended to allow the pursuit of individual aims and wealth unconstrained by government interference. To those who took up the reins of power, government was to be judged not by its ability to promote prosperity but by its capacity to leave people alone to pursue private ends. The principle that personal opportunity should be maximised also struck a chord with Puritanism that saw the acquisition of money as the just result of hard work and “the Lord’s blessing”.

This moderate civic liberty was deemed more important than any tendency towards democracy, and the architects of the Declaration of Independence – the land and property owners – were quick to construct a system of government based on the division of power that would guard against the “excesses of democracy”. They adopted a definition of “the people” which excluded women, non-landowners and slaves.

While it is undoubtedly true that writers like Tom Paine were influential in pushing the colonial revolt further than originally intended, it is also clear that the real beneficiaries of the break with Britain were the landowners and wealthy traders who were able to expand their own wealth without interference. Although Paine’s call to arms, based on abstractions and ideals, appealed to the ordinary person, the benefits accrued were material and went to the wealthy.

The “democracy” practised today in America is usually held up as the ultimate symbol of “liberty”. But from its outset this system was not envisaged as a condition in which individuals would be kept informed and use the knowledge acquired in the decision making process. On the contrary, this type of “democracy” was constructed as the institutional means to exclude the people from this arena by limiting involvement to the periodic election of someone, normally submissive to a political party, who would make decisions for them.

In capitalist society the media has always had a role to play in the promotion in this kind of vision. The production of a successful newspaper, for example, has always meant that journalistic integrity and editorial objectiveness have been subordinate to the institutional requirement of production for profit. From the moment that newspaper became a commodity and subject to advertising patronage and market forces, the genuine dissemination of information was always going to be the first casualty.

Prevailing ideas

So the media, in America as elsewhere, has a vested interest in driving out all but the most benign opinions and instilling a set of values and a code of behaviour that integrate people into class society. But this does not mean that the media are necessarily part of some conspiracy. While the media’s role is to circulate information presented in the context of society’s prevailing ideas, which have a strong influence over the way people think, this does not mean that the media originate these ideas. In general, the ideas presented by the media are rooted in the social milieu and are traceable, in the main, to the material conditions and the economic relations of society. The class that controls society’s economic structure shapes the institutions that arise in order to manage the economic conditions in its own interests and perpetuate its ascendancy over society. As well as its control over society’s coercive powers and the means by which the wage and salary earners live, this class also exercises persuasive powers, based on legal rights, traditions, customs and, as in America, historical myth that works its way into the consciousness of the working class. In a society divided by class, based on economic interests, the prevailing ideas are therefore a reflection of the needs and aspirations of the dominant class, which explains why many members of the working class often think and act in ways that are in contradiction to their real interests. The media therefore speaks not just for itself but for the whole of the capitalist class.

There are two reasons why Moyers’ belief that a reformed media can resurrect an abstract vision of “democracy” conjured up from a romanticised image of America’s past does not stand up to scrutiny. Firstly, the type of democracy he seems to want has never really existed, and secondly he fails to appreciate that capitalism and genuine democracy can never co-exist. Moyers does not criticise the economic system that compels the media to act in the way it does and does not see that in this system the media cannot operate in any other way – as if in a vacuum, uninfluenced by market forces. Media reform, which tinkers with the detail but leaves the underlying causes firmly entrenched, is, it could even be argued, actually dangerous because it reinforces the belief that capitalism can be made to work in the interests of the working class, when the opposite is patently the case.