The River

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Political commentary, cultural commentary and funny stuff

Can all be found over at Amr E. Malik's Rantissimo. Amr liked my "Instasandbox" post and told me so in that cool feature called "commenting." I clicked over to his site from the comment box's convenient URL feature today and read all of Amr's current posts (well worth it). Then I saw his post categories to the right. Clicked on movie reviews and found the below hilarious review.

StarWars II, Attack of the Morons

Well, where should I start? Its just that I think StarWars was tired to begin with, but now it has become downright moronic! I almost kick myself for shelling out 10.50 C$ to see this piece of crap!

This was another one of the Lucas Schizophrenic Productions! The racism is as prevalent as ever! now we have added Jedi knights who are half an inch away from a proper Mullet. Yes george, we know, you like mullets, you have one.. but fer cryin out loud, do you have to give the defenders of the galaxy a bloody mullet? I mean.. we ARE talking about thousands of years in the future where the top notch conduits of "the force" still like to defend themselves from laser fire by a flick of their light sabres!

The whole movie is about Anakin and that Queen chick trying to get their hands on each other, and about Anakin and Obi-Wan having cat-fights while the bad guys, yet again, succeed in getting to the prize, the erect nippled beauty whose name I forget, and whose name I have no intention of learning. The "love" scenes, and the "wooing" that went on, on Anakin's part, basically made me wish that I had brought a sharpened pencil with me to the theatre to stab myself in the eyes with!

Some impressions:

Jedi's are a bunch of idiots.

Yoda feigns his disability most of the time, cuz in the final fight seen, he can be seen buzzing around the bad guy like a bloody bee!

The American Redneck culture (mullets and all) permeates not only this galaxy but a galaxy far, far away as well!

The guy who played Anakin should be beaten severely (just like that).

Most bad guys in the universe have dark skin.

Most Stupid creatures in the universe have big fat lips and they look like whoopi goldberg.

Only the WASPy looking whities end up being in the good bunch of people.. how ODD!

There will be a "bankers' alliance", this race, oddly enough, fits the stereotypes of a race on planet earth accused of being "money handlers".

If you put a bunch of freaky looking, halloween costume wearing, two legged creatures (better yet if they are cheesily animated) in a movie with no fucking plot and no message whatsoever, you can call it "science fiction", and bungholes like me would go watch it. Seriously, its true!

George Lucas is a huge Redneck, Racist, Asswipe!

I'm a friKKKin moron to go watch this movie!

Over and Out!

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Fire on a Cold Day

So, yeah, there we were, all of 16, maybe 17. What were we doing? What was the day like? Maybe like this, a bit cold, wintry gray-white sky. Tree limbs bare. We would have jackets on, or coats, depending. I wasn't really into sweaters then. I'd wear a t-shirt and just put a coat over it. Maybe a flannel shirt.

So we, my friend N. and I, had a plan. This is what teenage friends did then, and I suppose what teenage friends always have done and always will do. Hang out and just talk. Say any crazy thing you could think of, and you could think of a lot, because that was one thing you were suddenly quite good at, one of the few things. I suppose we appreciated each other's craziness, but mostly our common bond was music. Working class angst music, Bob Seger, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen. Punk music. Raw, if modulated for public appeal, for FM radio. The roots were there, though, and we could feel them. The roots said, "baby if you want to be wild, you gotta lot to learn. Close your eyes let them melt, let them fire, let them burn." Learning and unlearning. Burning it down to build it up again new.

The plan, such as it was, was born and animated by this common bond, this love of rock's brash and passionate statement. "I'm not a number, damnit, I'm a man." The plan was indeed to let it burn. Burn it to the ground. Creative destruction? Nah, nothing so high-falutin. Creative desperation, maybe. Defiance. A gesture. And, as is all too common, an innocent victim far from the true target.

You cannot, you cannot even listen to that music -- art rock, they called it -- and understand our worldview. That stuff will suck the life right out of your soul. It will rot your brain, I tell you. It represents everything in this sorry excuse for a world that our heroes are fighting against. No way could we even this well articulate our -- no, not rage, we were far too full of life, at least when we were rappin over the slashing guitars and crashing drums -- our disappointment, our disbelief, our uncomprehending horror.

How, J., how could you listen to that "rock" band Yes. How could you, with an air of superiority, maintain that Yes was much better than Springsteen.

This cannot stand! We won't accept it. It's freaking wrong. How? Wha?

It just can't go unanswered. We'll get a Yes album, we planned, we schemed, "Roundabout," whatever, the cheapest one at Turtles.

Did you get it?

Yeah, here it is.

Let me hold it.

Look at the thing.

What is this silly picture?

Yes? Uh, no.


So then, on a cold evening, fading quickly into night, as I "remember" it now, we doused that sucker with lighter fluid, lit it, one of us did, I'm not sure which, rang J.'s doorbell, dropped the newly ignited record on the street in front of the house and ran like hell.

I still feel bad about it. I hope J. took it in stride as a salvo with those nuts he'd been arguing with over Yes, although it pretty much put an end to all conversation between us.

It must have been chilly that day, although I really have no idea. I just like the idea of a fire on a cold day.

Get with"the program," Molly Ivins

Head on over to wirearchy for a report on plutocrat media bias.

So Blatant

Apologies in advance to (most of) my friends and colleagues, whom I think are much more right-wing than I am - who have bought the arguments that Hussein et al were a grave danger to the security of the USA, and who believe that corporate America may actually care about their s' and their childrens' well-being, and are effective stewards of a free and democratic society. I'm getting pretty P-O'd

"Thanks, Molly, for sharing your point of view with us. It's always good to have a bit of ... er... humour".

Paula Zahn of CNN, interviewing journalist Molly Ivins of Texas (probably the sole liberal in the Great State of Texas)

Is it only me that gets PISSED OFF watching CNN ? Since when are television reporters "allowed" to consistently inject wee bits of judgmental invective in their questioning and repartee with interview subjects?

No, Jon. I don't tune in too much anymore. Everytime I do, I have to get it out of my system in a post similar to yours.

And Molly Ivins is a great American.

[more, much more, too many excellent posts to count, or blog]

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

The David Weinberger Interview

A snippet:

David: We're inventing this stuff. It's not unrelated to everything that's come before. Nothing is. But we also know that the most inconspicuous changes in a social convention can transform it. The fact that blogs are daily or in reverse chronological order or have blogrolls on the left or right but not at the top or bottom may be determinative of much else. So, the little differences that make blogs blogs seem to have called into being a type of public self that's not quite like any that we've seen before, at least not in such numbers. And we don't really understand them very well yet because the clay is still wet.

Go. It's where the cool people are hanging out today. (nice job, guys)

Monday, December 15, 2003


The news broke on Sunday, and by Monday, little eight-year-old Glenn Reynolds was in a state. He couldn’t wait for recess. When it finally came, he ran up to the sandbox where two classmates were already playing.

“We captured Saddam! We captured Saddam!" Glenn shouted. "Nya, nya, nya, naya!” A few kids playing kickball nearby turned their heads toward the commotion.

Joe continued scooping sand into a bucket. “Oh jeez. Really? And you think that’s going to change anything?”

Glenn started pacing and gesturing erratically. “Hahaha. Score one for me! Woos.”

Joe leaned toward Jack, who was navigating a dump truck over a bumpy sand road. “Is he still playing this game?”

“God yes. It never ends. It’s his favorite game in the whole world – the U.S. versus Islamic fundamentalism.”

“No, I think it’s the true patriots versus the insidious liberals.”

“It’s both, really,” Jack replied, raising the back end of the dump truck.

“Aha! You're dismayed at this victory in the war. Therefore you are objectively anti-American.”

Jack shot Joe a look. “See?”

“Yep….Dude, I wish I had a dime for every time you called me that. If I was anti-American, would I go to an American public school, listen to American rock music, visit America’s national parks with my family, and play intramural football at the American YMCA? I don’t think so. Yet somehow, because I don’t support a patently illegal invasion and occupation of another country, I’m anti-American.”

Glenn squatted down on the edge of the sandbox and began talking more quietly, as if reasoning with a toddler. If bullying didn’t work, you could always quietly lead them to seeing the error of their decadent ways. “Yes, you still have the privilege of living in this country, but you most certainly are misguided. It’s the liberal media’s fault. I know you take your marching orders from Mad Magazine and those Tom Tomorrow cartoons.” He straightened up and began to pace again. It was hard to be calm when everything you believed in was threatened. “They want us to be communist! They hate America! They want Bush to fail so they can regain power and impose gay marriage and high taxes, welfare dependency, socialized health care, only criminals with guns, godless pacifism, the end of freedom.”

“Dude, a little more freedom and democracy is about the only thing on the agenda,” said Joe. “And the only thing ‘they’ and those toons hate is stupidity.” A castle was taking shape in the sand in front of him.

Jack concentrated on his dump truck. He knew talking to Glenn was pointless. “Nah,” he corrected Joe. “ ‘Hate’ is too strong a word. We can all get bellicose and small-minded. You have to realize that to have a sense of humor.”

“Jack, stop taking the high road.”

“It’s not. It’s just the road that happens to be under my feet.”

“Ten to one, Jack, he conflates Saddam with Al Qaeda and every Islamic fundamentalist terrorist nutcase on the block.”

Glenn could hardly hear their conversation, but he pressed on. “Now that we’ve captured Saddam, can’t you admit you were wrong? Can’t you admit that this is a major victory in the war on terror? Think of what would have happened if Gore was our president.”

Joe sat back on his heels. “Saddam still in power WITHOUT any significant ability to threaten. The Iraqi populace still terrorized by nearly daily bombing and needlessly harsh sanctions. A smooth transition of Clinton’s extensive anti-terrorist plans, no 9-11, imperialism continuing apace, but in a less crude and murderous fashion,” he replied matter of factly. “American-style capitalism has won. What is wrong with you people? Can’t you just enjoy it without instigating a holy war?”

Glenn’s mouth hung open. He sputtered, “This is a crusade! We must defeat the crusade! If you don’t join the army then you are aiding the enemy. You are either pro-terrorist or anti-terrorist.”

Joe stood up. The castle he’d built no longer pleased him. “Jesus H. Christ, Glenn. You are so fucking one-note. You cannot fit the world into neat little “pro” and “anti” boxes. The U.S. cannot be the sole arbiter of what is and what is not terrorism.”

Jack tossed the dump truck away and stood. “Or what is and what is not international law.” He took Joe’s elbow. “It’s the future, Joe. Just leave it.”

They started to walk towards the school building. “Thank God his mom and dad are moving to Tennessee.”

Glenn shouted after them, “Go ahead, run off. Because you know I’m right.” He gave the sand castle a vicious kick. “It’s your fault. It’s all your fault!”

The bell rang. Recess was over.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Another Day in the Empire

It’s finally turned cold here in Atlanta, and consequently, I’ve been having more trouble than usual getting out of bed. This morning I hunkered down under the flannel sheets, the blanket, the quilt and the wool throw, shooting my arm out every six minutes to hit the snooze. Finally, Leigh’s alarm went off, which was an odd event, as she typically uses the shouts and howls of Audrey as her alarm. It so discombobulated me that my arm, apparently unattached to my brain, overshot the snooze and hit the button that turns on the radio. Carl Castle boomed out: the leaders of Russia, France and Germany are upset with the United States over exclusion from bidding on construction contracts in Iraq.

On my way to the shower, I had to laugh. The LEADERS. Jesus God, the leaders of this thing we call civilized society sounding like a gang of petulant mafia dons, like....

Bush: Listen, we’re gonna knock off the Sands in Vegas. Fuck Saddam, we’re taking him out. Then we’ll tell his boys to take a long walk off a short pier, and install our own people. From there, we’ll take over every casino in Vegas, one by one. We can’t let the Islam family have it anymore. I don’t know about you, but the thought of someone with brown skin and a different God having money and power drives me fucking bananas.

Crowd: murmer, murmer, murmer…what do I get out of it?…..if I contribute some men, I should get to at least one casino, after the dust has cleared…shit, we’re a two-bit outfit, I’m just glad he asked ….money! I’ll be rich!…well, I hope Saddam understands, but Bush is boss now…


Germany, France, Russia: Godfather, we are aggrieved. We have many in our families that could run casinos.

Bush: Hmmm, I don’t see you on this list. I came to you. I told you my family would do most of the dirty work. I told you that no one could stop us and that we WOULD get away with it. I offered you a chance to be in on it. It hurts me that some of the oldest families couldn’t come to terms on this caper. Especially you, Russia, who remind me of my own son, Sonny. Maybe next time you’ll recognize an offer you can’t refuse when you see it.

Embedded reporter: Can I report this?

Bush: Sure. Karl? Is that press release ready yet? I need the NPR version.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Year-end Blogger Awards

Academia’s Loss is Our Gain Award – Wealth Bondage

You Gotta Laugh to Keep From Crying Award – WTF Is It Now??

Best Blog Reflecting A Cool Aging Hippie Award – Sandhill Trek

Better $35 Investment Than NPR Award – Soapbox

If We Could Bottle the Passion We Could Make it to Another Planet and Start Over Award – Out2Lunch

Best Politics and News Blog – thoughts on the eve of the apocalypse

Reigning Queen of Blogdom (and still the champion of the world) – Allied

Best 2003 Infusion of Intellect – Yule Heibel's Post Studio

Best Blogger on the Trail of Better Business – wirearchy

Best Literary Magazine – wood s lot

The Never Give In, Never Give In, Never, Never, Never Award – Steve Gilliard’s News Blog

The Next Bukowski Award – skullbolt

Pretty Good Blog, for a Girl or a Boy -- Burning Bird

Most Consistent – onegoodmove

Can Write Well – quite well, extremely amusing -- About Anything Award – Mad Percolator Rants

Best Left I on the News – Left I on the News

Best Hiatus Note – Hector Rottweiller Jr's Web Log

Most Clear-Eyed Rabble Rousers – American Samizdat

Most Uncompromising in Speaking Truth to Power, and Best Name – Another Day in the Empire

Best Use of a Blog by a Poet – You Live Your Life As If It's Real

Best Sporadic Use of a Blog by a Poet – Notes From a Life in Progress

Canadians Who can Write Their Asses Off Awards – bmoeasy, Negative Velocity

Best Inspirational Passages Pulled Out Just for You – whiskey river

Keepin it Real Award – tie: Degrees of Divinity, Bohemian Mama

Most Thought-Provoking – bogue's blog

Glad You Joined the Motely Crew Citation -- Pernicious Bloggage

Never Know What to Expect Award – Doug's Dynamic Drivel

Best Use of Pictures and Words -- a moveable beast

A Pleasure to Read Award – Fatshadow

We Get It, the Media Sucks Certificate – The Daily Howler

Best Blog Authored by Zed – MemeMachineGo!

Outsider Artist of the Year – Dr. Menlo

Best Australian Perspective – she sells sanctuary

Won’t Let You Lose Your Sense of Outrage Award – Seeing The Forest

Best Progressive Blog -- Mousemusings Weblog

2003 Exemplary Blog – tie: INSITEVIEW, The Obvious?

Visual Artist Blog of the Year – barbtries a blog

Prose Artist Blog of the Year – baggage carousel

Best Blog by a Journalist – Nonsense Verse

Blogs Most Rarely Read Because They Make Me Feel Inadequate – Oblivio, Open All Night

Chef of the Year – OnePotMeal

2003 Heavyweight Contenders – Open Source Politics

Best Flame-Out – High Water

Gonzo, But Not Forgotten – EGR

Thanks for Sharing Plaque – All Bloggers

Friday, December 05, 2003


I heard part of a report on NPR the other day. Something about the Hell’s Angels. Some members of the motorcycle club were arrested after a two-year undercover investigation.

The report stated that there was a human side to the Hell’s Angels. As an organization, they do good deeds, Toys for Tots or something like that.

Then the person being interviewed said,

don’t be fooled. It’s a public relations/marketing effort. This is a conscious effort to be viewed in the public mind as other than what many of them are, and that is criminals.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

In response to a below post, News Article, Jon Husband asks, “Why, exactly, do you think it's not more obvious to more people that the media and marketing are such very large forces in the stress and dis-ease many people feel in their lives?”

Media Stew

THE CORPORATE media is an extension of the state. That is a truism, which is almost never taught at media schools. – John Pilger

Who put these fingerprints on my imagination? – Elvis Costello, Green Shirt

There are lines in pop songs that stay with me for a while, just pop into my head. They’re like soundtracks to whatever my I’m thinking about. “What’s so funny about peace, love and understanding” has been one, “we’re all sensitive people, with so much to give” has been another, more recent one (it’s from Let’s Get it On, by Marvin Gaye); and the one above.

I guess it’s illustrative of the influence that rock-n-roll, as I broadly define it, has had on me. It’s cliché to say that rock-n-roll saved your life, but it did mine, in a sense. And in today’s climate, the statement may even be laughable. Because rock and its rebellion has been so fully absorbed and exploited by the mainstream. You can still have it, it says, just buy a sporty Cadillac, or dress in Gap clothes. Consumerism. That’s your one choice now, disguised as a “liberating” smorgasbord of choices. Plus, our culture teaches us to suspect statements that are so plain and heartfelt. No, we are to carve out a superficial style (from the available lines), establish a hip cred, and laugh at everything else. Guard that territory with all due malice and cruelty. It’s all that matters. You’ve made it.

Rock, on the other hand, said “fuck that! That’s some grim shit. Let’s get together and celebrate our COMMON humanity.” So all the drawing of lines, all the institutions and structures of society that you were either in or out of (with us or against us), all that pressure to conform, could be loosened, cut down to size, danced upon. At least while the music played.

So before rock saved my life, at some indefinable, unnoticed juncture in my teenhood, I was in the state of not being aware of the large forces of media and marketing. I was suburban, middle class all the way. If it was “new” or “improved” it came back from the supermarket, the department store or the doctor’s office. America, and American business, was providing us with a better life. My parents lived that dream. They lived through the depression, surviving on mustard sandwiches and shoes with cardboard inside to cover the holes. They graduated high school and started our family. Five of us kids, all college graduates.

And you can’t tell me it wasn’t a good life, for them and for us. And yet…who did put these fingerprints on my imagination? Television, of course. And advertising. Our society, Kalle Lasn, editor of Adbusters, has argued, is subject to a kind of mass brainwashing experiment through these instruments offering the ability to invade our mental space. It’s called repetition. It works.

As my friend Ray has pointed out, we’re in a stage of advanced capitalism where everything has finally become a product. The “President” is shrewdly marketed to appeal to people just as any other product, and with the same crass and empty appeals. We’re so trained and used to it, we accept it as a matter of course. And the media has always used fear (ahhh, halitosis, oh no, ring around the collar, whoa, another murder) to hook us in, setting us up for the product that solves the problem, even if it doesn’t. Too late, you bought it. What were you thinking? Oh, you weren’t.

We’re trained, and from an early age, to fear. And fear, and other plays on our base emotions, short-circuits thought. So…don’t think, just buy it. Beg, borrow, steal, or whore, but get the money so you can buy it. It becomes natural to think everthing comes from without -- a purchase -- and nothing from within.

Now, you can legitimately ask, “oh, you’re saved? You’re special? How so? I don’t see it. You work in marketing, for chrissakes.” Because in truth rock didn’t save me. It merely provided the spark that allows me to retain a modicum of dignity and individuality in the face of what is becoming an increasingly aggressive commercial onslaught. There are no absolutes. No one is innocent. No one is perfect.

But everyone needs that spark. That moment when something speaks to you and says “deep down, you’ve always been right. Despite what the dominant, dazzling, technological – and let’s face it, fun – entertainment/culture/products are telling you, they ain’t you. Their authority is removed, impersonal. Its interest is not your own. Don’t buy it.”

The next step is to turn off the TV. The next is to act.

And that’s where real character and courage finally come into play. I’m still on step one.

Did that answer your question? I don’t know, we’re swimming in it. It’s huge. We’re small. We think we get it, we think we’re media aware and savvy, but I think we’re still learning.

The marketing industry is often blamed for the increase in cultural background noise and unwanted information.

Opinion is divided as to how many commercial messages a person is exposed in a single day. Recent research in the US said it could be as many as 2,500.

Will the information age produce a new Darwin?
"We have absolutely no idea what this constant advertising babble is doing to us," Kalle Lasn, founder of anti-commercial group Adbusters has said.

"The situation is similar to what we were experiencing at the start of the environmental movement 40 years ago, when people just didn't want to believe that three parts per billion of some chemical in the air or water could be toxic and have all kinds of unforeseen consequences down the road.

"Today we are repeating that same mistake in our mental environment."

Adbusters, which is best known for its sophisticated spoofs, such as its Joe Chemo - a swipe at Camel cigarettes - campaigns against what it calls the "corporate colonisation of the mind".

-- BBC article

I go down to Speaker's Corner I'm thunderstruck
They got free speech, tourists, police in trucks
Two men say they're Jesus, one of them must be wrong
There's a protest singer singing a protest song - he says
'They wanna have a war to keep their factories
They wanna have a war to keep us on our knees
They wanna have a war to stop us buying Japanese
They wanna have a war to stop Industrial Disease

They're pointing out the enemy to keep you deaf and blind
They wanna sap your energy incarcerate your mind

-- Industrial Disease, Dire Straits

Ultimately, though, Adbusters is an ecological magazine, dedicated to examining the relationship between human beings and their physical and mental environment. We want a world in which the economy and ecology resonate in balance. We try to coax people from spectator to participant in this quest. We want folks to get mad about corporate disinformation, injustices in the global economy, and any industry that pollutes our physical or mental commons.

-- Adbusters Info page

There’s a smart young woman on a light blue screen
Who comes into my house every night.
And she takes all the red, yellow, orange and green
And she turns them into black and white.

But you tease, and you flirt
And you shine all the buttons on your green shirt
You can please yourself but somebody’s gonna get it

Better cut off all identifying labels
Before they put you on the torture table

’cause somewhere in the "quisling clinic"
There’s a shorthand typist taking seconds over minutes
She’s listening in to the venus line
She’s picking out names
I hope none of them are mine

But you tease, and you flirt...

Never said I was a stool pigeon
I never said I was a diplomat
Everybody is under suspicion
But you don’t wanna hear about that

’cause you tease, and you flirt...

Better send a begging letter to the big investigation
Who put these fingerprints on my imagination?

You tease, and you flirt...

You can please yourself but somebody’s gonna get it
You can please yourself but somebody’s gonna get it

-- Green Shirt

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Something’s happening here…

People speaking their minds.

I remember some months after 9-11 listening to the song For What It’s Worth by Buffalo Springfield and finding it eerily up to date. But I didn’t put the emphasis on the words quoted above. Instead, I thought of how “paranoia strikes deep.”

But I wasn’t even aware of blogging then, much less a blogger. Well, I am now, and I can finally believe that everything did change after 9-11. People speaking their minds. On blogs. And I tell you with unabashed enthusiasm, that it is beautiful. And that blogging is important. That it is contributing something new and vital, however small. And it’s far more than the people who create blogs. It’s the people who read them. It’s an absolutely vital conversation that is not, and probably cannot, take place anywhere else. These readers of blogs are leaving comments, speaking their minds.

Read Steve Gilliard’s post, I’m a fighting liberal, and then the comments. They reflect, I think, I hope, the beginnings of a groundswell that will make itself felt in the fabric of our country. A culture war is in the offing. That means a counter culture must come to the fore. A counter movement. Counter to neo-conservatism. Yes, it will be…Liberal! And blogs, the Internet, are, hopefully, a spark. An important one.

Here are two comments, from NB and SW, who I hope don’t mind this appropriation.

Note to paradox [a poster upthread]. I am on this rollercoaster of despair and hope that you seem to express in your posts recently. I had it bad last spring & summer and others on these blogs were supportive and it helped. I, like you I guess, am baffled that polls continue to show Bush and the Republican wehrmacht against liberal America continue to have 50% support. Clearly 25 years of the Reagan revolution have been wildly successful in dumbing down and mind numbing a huge number of our fellow citizens. My own family... (weep) ...are constituents of this mindless, hopeless, frightened herd. My best friends pay lip service to ideals they once believed but fail to act. I don't know what they're waiting for.

I try to tell them, as do the best writers on the leftie blogs and in what little remains of the free press in America, that to be liberal means to fight. To actually, physically, battle in real time with conservatives and wear them down. At this point, way too many of our hoped-for allies become afraid and disconnect, drink, do drugs, dissolve into their daily haze of denial and dread.

You though, inspire me. You don't seem to give in to this. You remain a fighter and forthright and it makes a difference to me to read your thoughts, though I don't reply very often to tell you so. Believe there are thousands of others who take courage from your words, from the words of Gilliard, and Kos, Billmon, Leftcoaster, and all of their brilliant, forthright, articulate, and outspoken posters, advocates of a genuine liberalism, an authentic Democratic Party, who not only still know the difference between lies and the truth, but how to tell the difference for those who struggle to figure it out. -- NB

I think we all suffer from temperal chauvanism. We tend to think that ours are the most challenging times ever. But if you look at history, this is the way it always is. Is our challenge greater than the abolistionists who were vilified as fanatics even in the North? Is our challenge greater than that facing FDR upon his election? Greater than the civil rights workers in the deep south in the 50's?

Look it is bad now. But it has ALWAYS been bad. That is what this fight is all about. We, all of us through history are in the process of creating America. It is a job half finished. The case can be made that progress occurs in discrete jumps. That there are long periods of stagnation that lead to crisis which leads to brief windows of opportunity to create meaningful lasting change. It is time to force that window open. We owe it to history, to everyone who has come before and we owe it to the future. – SW

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

News Article

Here’s the news: Until it leads the national newscasts on TV, it hasn’t made a dent in the public mind.

We, the progressive types on the Net, can point to the odd negative article here and there, but if it’s not part of the official story, i.e. part of the major stories on TV newscasts, it isn’t making much of a difference in public opinion.

Not one of the all-important mainstream media organs is interested in disabusing the public of the notion that the US invaded Iraq to help them, to bring freedom to an oppressed and backward people, and to fight terrorism. Hard to believe, but this typical American in a typical job in a typical city can look around and see that most other typical Americans, working their typical jobs and raising their typical families, would run screaming from the cognitive dissonance of reading on our blogs and progressive sites the truth about Iraq.

What else do I see? I see magnetic flags on cars. I see “Power of Pride” bumper stickers. I see people too busy to do anything more to keep informed than read their lousy newspaper and watch TV. Too busy because they think they must compete in the “who has the most and best toys” game. Undereducated because they’ve been led to believe, through relentless advertising and marketing, to favor materialism over learning, quick and easy over difficult-but-right. Frozen dinners and fast food over cooking. Disposable containers over crockery. Mine over ours.

This is the dispiriting truth. This is the news. The media is part of the problem. The media, in a sense, IS the problem. The media sets the tone, reinforces the underlying assumption. The media is the master. The people follow. It takes effort and awareness to even realize it, as it would take a thunderbolt-like epiphany for a fish to realize it’s wet.

Do I blame people? Nah. I blame the media. Painting Al Gore as a liar. Helping Bush steal the presidency. Beating the drums for war. Downplaying the worldwide anti-war movement. People don’t realize it’s biased toward the corporate rule of which it is a part. People don’t realize they’re being soaked.

And as William Greider famously asked, “who will tell the people?”

…and here again is the beauty of the Internet. No sooner do I think of Mr. Greider than I discover that he has a Web site, where he engages these issues as “an ex-Luddite” who has “learned to appreciate the democratic possibilities of the Internet.” And this great American journalist continues to write books. In reference to his new book, The Soul of Capitalism, he writes, “…I am pleased to know that I have relieved some people of the anxiety attached to knowing things that are never frankly acknowledged elsewhere by the dominant culture.”

That quote is from his Web journal entry about his book tour, “Selling Hope in Hard Cover.” Here’s another choice bit:

This time feels different, I realize. I am invested more deeply in the outcome, perhaps because I am invested more personally in the content. This book is “more from the heart,” a friend observed, and my own hopes for the ideas are upfront and fully exposed. I am anxious for this book to find its true audience – the people who are able to recognize its value, who may be optimistic enough to take up some of the ideas and pursue them beyond the present. Above all, I do not want this book to disappear beneath the waves and leave no trace. So I talk too long.

Bottomline: I am already feeling wonderfully confirmed by the people I have encountered. This book was always going to be a tough sell, both because capitalism is such an intimidating subject and because it requires people to look up from present troubles (the war, the economy, the shock politics of GW Bush) and squint hopefully at the larger future. I can report that lots of folks are willing to do that, perhaps hungry for the opportunity.

In the sales pitch, I sort of introduce myself as Dr. Sunshine, come to inject a little light and hope amid troubling events – even take them to the mountaintop and envision the possibility that American capitalism can be reformed in substantial ways in order to serve society more faithfully and equitably, rather than overwhelm and damage it. These are not the worst of times, I remind audiences. But if we are so wealthy as a nation (and we are), why does it not feel like the best of times? If we are the richest, greatest, freest, most powerful nation on earth (as we regularly tell others), why then do Americans feel so confined and trampled, sometimes desperate, amid the vast abundance? Or maybe because of it.

Talking like this naturally invites ridicule in established circles and the Wall Street Journal grabbed the opportunity. Its reviewer described me as plain spacey -- possibly drugged? -- like Jerry Garcia pulling on a bong. But, likewise, a liberal reviewer in the Washington Post dismissed my views as trivial sentiment alongside the present-day emergencies. I incorporate their complaints in my talks and it always get a big laugh. If orthodox left and right both think I am hallucinating, I playfully suggest, maybe this book has opened up new ground. The point is, nobody in the audience disputes the cramped reality of our prosperity or the scandalous injuries to lives and community that flow from the economic system. A few do wonder if these wounds can be healed by reforming capitalism (as opposed to blowing it up).