The River

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Dark days

I’ve got a bad case of writer’s block. But when it carries over into work, I’m in trouble.

I sit here at work like a gibbering fool, paralyzed. Wanting all demands to go away. Dreaming of self-medication the likes of which I haven’t seen since college. And post-college, and much of my 30s.

Ok, dreaming of last weekend. Anything but being dull, dreary and unproductive.

Because really, how do you stay strong? How do you act? What do you do? We’ve got peak oil, an impending housing market crash, trillions in debt, leaders and media intent on terrorizing us with another World War for profit, monstrous third-world exploitation, global warming, right wing radio, and television. Tell my vision. Mental prison.

The new Harry Potter is dark. The new Star Wars is dark. We keep talking about “the dark.” I think we’re fascinated. Entranced.

London Terror!

As a media phenomenon, have you every seen anything more contrived? You really do have to ask what the point is. You really do have to ask yourself about false flags and the fomenting of WWIII. (and here I will link someone who obviously wants to have it out. Megalomania in full flower.)

Yeah, dark days. No shit. Can’t seem to see the light. Can’t seem to locate it.

What the hell. Life goes on. Even in wartime. (I read that on the inside flap of the new Harry Potter.)

I just wonder if we’ll ever catch a break. We seem to be under a spell.

Ah well, I’m workin on it. It may not look like it, but I am.

I can make it through. You can make it too. To quote Bob Dylan, who wrote…

Senor (Tales of Yankee Power)

(which Jerry Garcia does a good job with on the wonderful 1991 Arista release "Jerry Garcia Band", a live recording that seems to be out of print and which I picked up this week at a used book shop. I'd been sort of looking for it ever since my buddy Kev put it in the cassette player in the Honda 14 years ago and I was surprised to be diggin it, not giving the Dead their due at that point.)

Senor, senor, do you know where we're headin'?
Lincoln County Road or Armageddon?
Seems like I been down this way before.
Is there any truth in that, senor?

Senor, senor, do you know where she is hidin'?
How long are we gonna be ridin'?
How long must I keep my eyes glued to the door?
Will there be any comfort there, senor?

There's a wicked wind still blowin' on that upper deck,
There's an iron cross still hanging down from around her neck.
There's a marchin' band still playin' in that vacant lot
Where she held me in her arms one time and said, "Forget me not."

Senor, senor, I can see that painted wagon,
I can smell the tail of the dragon.
Can't stand the suspense anymore.
Can you tell me who to contact here, senor?

Well, the last thing I remember before I stripped and kneeled
Was that trainload of fools bogged down in a magnetic field.
A gypsy with a broken flag and a flashing ring
Said, "Son, this ain't a dream no more, it's the real thing."

Senor, senor, you know their hearts is as hard as leather.
Well, give me a minute, let me get it together.
I just gotta pick myself up off the floor.
I'm ready when you are, senor.

Senor, senor, let's disconnect these cables,
Overturn these tables.
This place don't make sense to me no more.
Can you tell me what we're waiting for, senor?

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Television and the Hive Mind

By Mack White


Experiments conducted by researcher Herbert Krugman reveal that, when a person watches television, brain activity switches from the left to the right hemisphere. The left hemisphere is the seat of logical thought. Here, information is broken down into its component parts and critically analyzed. The right brain, however, treats incoming data uncritically, processing information in wholes, leading to emotional, rather than logical, responses. The shift from left to right brain activity also causes the release of endorphins, the body's own natural opiates--thus, it is possible to become physically addicted to watching television, a hypothesis borne out by numerous studies which have shown that very few people are able to kick the television habit.

This numbing of the brain's cognitive function is compounded by another shift which occurs in the brain when we watch television. Activity in the higher brain regions (such as the neo-cortex) is diminished, while activity in the lower brain regions (such as the limbic system) increases. The latter, commonly referred to as the reptile brain, is associated with more primitive mental functions, such as the "fight or flight" response. The reptile brain is unable to distinguish between reality and the simulated reality of television. To the reptile brain, if it looks real, it is real. Thus, though we know on a conscious level it is "only a film," on a conscious level we do not--the heart beats faster, for instance, while we watch a suspenseful scene. Similarly, we know the commercial is trying to manipulate us, but on an unconscious level the commercial nonetheless succeeds in, say, making us feel inadequate until we buy whatever thing is being advertised--and the effect is all the more powerful because it is unconscious, operating on the deepest level of human response. The reptile brain makes it possible for us to survive as biological beings, but it also leaves us vulnerable to the manipulations of television programmers.

It is not just commercials that manipulate us. On television news as well, image and sound are as carefully selected and edited to influence human thought and behavior as in any commercial. The news anchors and reporters themselves are chosen for their physical attractiveness--a factor which, as numerous psychological studies have shown, contributes to our perception of a person's trustworthiness. Under these conditions, then, the viewer easily forgets--if, indeed, the viewer ever knew in the first place--that the worldview presented on the evening news is a contrivance of the network owners--owners such as General Electric (NBC) and Westinghouse (CBS), both major defense contractors. By molding our perception of the world, they mold our opinions. This distortion of reality is determined as much by what is left out of the evening news as what is included--as a glance at Project Censored's yearly list of top 25 censored news stories will reveal. If it's not on television, it never happened. Out of sight, out of mind.

Under the guise of journalistic objectivity, news programs subtly play on our emotions--chiefly fear. Network news divisions, for instance, frequently congratulate themselves on the great service they provide humanity by bringing such spectacles as the September 11 terror attacks into our living rooms. We have heard this falsehood so often, we have come to accept it as self-evident truth. However, the motivation for live coverage of traumatic news events is not altruistic, but rather to be found in the central focus of Cantril's War of the Worlds research--the manipulation of the public through fear.

There is another way in which we are manipulated by television news. Human beings are prone to model the behaviors they see around them, and avoid those which might invite ridicule or censure, and in the hypnotic state induced by television, this effect is particularly pronounced. For instance, a lift of the eyebrow from Peter Jennings tells us precisely what he is thinking--and by extension what we should think. In this way, opinions not sanctioned by the corporate media can be made to seem disreputable, while sanctioned opinions are made to seem the very essence of civilized thought. And should your thinking stray into unsanctioned territory despite the trusted anchor's example, a poll can be produced which shows that most persons do not think that way--and you don't want to be different do you? Thus, the mental wanderer is brought back into the fold.


GWOT the hell were you thinking?

NPR was full of casual racism today.

It’s the blindness of the tribe.

First, I noticed it in a reporter talking about the fact that they are now saying the London bombers were of Pakistani origin living in Britain. He said they grew up in England, went to local schools, etc., just like the British do. He said this as if it were incredible, with the underlying assumption being that they actually couldn’t be British, because they aren’t white and because they pulled a terrorist bombing. As if an unprovoked attack on a foreign country killing thousands of civillians isn't an example of terrorism.

Later, another report mentioned that Britains need to be vigilant about extremism, which was implied only to exist in Muslims. As if an unprovoked attack on a foreign country isn’t an example of extremism.

But then questioning assumptions you are constantly fed is the one thing you are never supposed to do, especially if you want to work in the corporate media.

If you did that, you might not find it so incredible that white-skinned, socially accepted people within the U.S. would plan and execute a terrorist attack on their own country in order to begin a war with the Middle East.

UPDATE: The Happy Tutor points to The Third Wave, a tale of an experiment in fascist groupthink conducted by a high school teacher more than 30 years ago.

"You thought that you were the elect. That you were better than those outside this room. You bargained your freedom for the comfort of discipline and superiority. You chose to accept that group's will and the big lie over your own conviction."

(you didn't notice that the corporate media constantly reinforces the big lie...)

Friday, July 01, 2005


I just posted a World Socialist Web piece with the following: "The Socialist Equality Party calls for the development and building of a new independent mass movement against war and social reaction."
And now I see Harry (UPDATE: er...I mean MK) is thinking mass movement too.

He points to a Black Commentator piece called It's Time to Build a Mass Movement.

Anytime Bush gives a speech it tends to prompt a "holy shit, I really must do something about this" moment. For me, this usually takes the form of fantasizing about moving out of the country. But I'm all for a mass movement. We need a Rosa Parks moment...

UPDATE: then again, I agree with the following sentiment from Jon Husband: "This will be the last blog post I make on political issues with respect to the giant headlock which the United States has applied to the Middle East. I am sorely tempted ... often ... but have very slowly and even more grudgingly come to believe that it JUST DOESN"T MATTER.

Hundreds of thousands .. nay, millions ... of people can point out all the lies, the blatant manipulation of language, values, laws and the machinery of society ... and it all just keeps on going and growing."


What to do, what to do about...
Clusterfuck Nation, formerly known as America...

Are we the American Socialist Front, or the Socialist Front of America?

(Whatever, the following speaks for me.)

The New York Times closes ranks with Bush on Iraq war

By Barry Grey, World Socialist Web Site

30 June 2005


They fear, moreover, that a Vietnam-style defeat would profoundly discredit the existing social and political order in the eyes of the American working class, with far-reaching and dangerous consequences.

The lineup of all factions of the American political establishment behind the war—and against the majority of Americans who oppose it—demonstrates that the struggle against the war is inseparably bound up with a struggle against the entire social and political system. Just as it is not possible to discuss “where we go from here” in Iraq outside of a discussion of the origins of the war, it is not possible to seriously oppose the war without opposing the capitalist system which gave rise to it, and the American financial oligarchy which authored it and in whose interests it is being waged.

The starting point for a struggle against the war must be the demand for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all US troops. The US government must pay full reparations for the destruction it has wreaked in Iraq, and reparations to the families of US soldiers killed in the war, as well as to soldiers wounded in the fighting.

All those involved in the criminal conspiracy that produced the war must be held accountable both politically and legally. They must be placed before an independent tribunal and tried for war crimes.

This will not happen of itself. The Socialist Equality Party calls for the development and building of a new independent mass movement against war and social reaction. It is clear that the fight against war cannot be directed just against the Bush administration. It must also be a fight against the administration’s accomplices in the Democratic Party. [emphasis added, as steady fecklessness grows more disgusting by the hour]

It is necessary to break out of the straightjacket of the two-party system. Already it is obvious that, in advance of the 2006 congressional elections, both parties are working to frame the debate on the war along the lines of how the war can be won. This must be rejected. The only legitimate response to the killing in Iraq is the demand for the withdrawal of all US troops.

There is enormous opposition to the war among the American people, and it is growing. There is also political confusion. How could it be otherwise when the government lies systematically and the media either covers up the lies or minimizes their significance?

What is needed is a fight to link the growing opposition to the war to rising social discontent over the attacks on workers’ jobs, wages and pensions. There is a profound connection between militarism abroad and the ever-greater concentration of wealth at home, between foreign predations and the assault on the working class within the US.

The struggle against war requires a break with the Democratic Party and the building of a mass, independent party of the working class fighting for the socialist reorganization of society.