May 16, 2002

Beyond Politics

Alternative Media and the New Paradigm

Now we see papers like the New York Times feebly voicing some dissent against the reckless insanity in Washington, and I do mean feebly. They seem to be the frog in the boiling water that never jumped out because the water heated up too slowly to notice. One might even go so far as to say the Times is awake, barely. But that is not nearly enough.

The world situation is an emergency. And what is going on in Washington is a big part of the problem. The Times and its brethren are built into the institutions that are part of the problem. They are grinding on an old momentum from the machine age, and the world is no longer changing at that pace. It is changing with the lightning speed of electronic technology. Unfortunately not all of this change is benign. It is a time when the survival of the human race requires vision and leadership. It demands dynamic action, now. This is not happening in Washington. We have an unelected president who is clearly serving only the interests of a small corporate elite. And the mechanisms now in place within establishment media and politics are too slow in their reaction times to do any good.

Some members of the establishment media that are cozy with power seem vaguely aware that things are veering dangerously out of control, but collectively -- as institutions -- they are too dazed to respond coherently to what has become a serious threat to the democratic principles that were once considered the foundation of the American system, and quite probably environmental disaster on a large scale. That's why we - I rarely use that pronoun, but I'm talking now about almost everybody - need an alternative media. The Internet has provided a means by which that can be created, and it is being created, on a grassroots level.

Even if the government puts strict controls on the Internet, it seems unlikely that it can stop the development of an alternative media, if there is a will to create it. And there apparently is the will, and certainly the urgent need. Now we see it growing around us.

The major media have made themselves irrelevant. I am beyond despising them. That's where I was in December 2001. Now they are becoming too inconsequential to work up a lot of feeling about either way. This could certainly change. Anything is possible. A certain amount of change is perceptible even in the past few months. There is a tentative flicker of the courage to express disagreement with the almighty administration. But it's certainly no match for the ruthlessness of the bandits who now control the White House.

What we* need now is a whole new way of thinking.

*There's that royal "we" again - The underlying basis of that choice of words is that only the American people can stop the path to destruction that the world is now on, thanks to the power guys in Washington, who sometimes appear to be lunatics, but may only be dinosaurs who are operating with presumptions that no longer are in synch with the realities of the 21st Century.

The rulers of the American empire cannot be stopped in the third world, they are too militarily powerful, and they obviously have little restraint and no remorse. The countries in the developed world are not under threat of military invasion by the United States like most of the Third World is, but they have little power to stop the U.S. from doing anything that might damage or destroy them more or less inadvertently, like refusing to cooperate in a defense strategy against global warming.

That means it's all up to the American people. In the United States, there are democratic laws in place, a democratic tradition, but it is latent. There is real democratic power inherent in the population, but it has not been exercised vigorously for years. Yet it is the only hope for stopping the chaos being wreaked by the Bush regime and other politicians puppets of major corporations.

The new way of thinking that will be essential to ward off the threat of corporate destructiveness will not be found inside the system of thinking that now exists in the established media, the rear-view mirror of today's world. One cannot enter the political dialogue without speaking the prevailing political language with its own inherent limitations and presumptions. The new way of thinking can only come from outside that system.

The established media may be forced to change by information that bypasses it and goes straight to the people. A dramatic instance of this was the aftermath of the failed coup in Venezuela. If the Venezuelan people had not risen in overwhelming numbers to oppose the illegal takeover of the government - which we now know was encouraged if not engineered by the bush administration - then the party line would have prevailed and Americans would not now know that the story was not at all as the New York Times, in utter subservience to the government, told us. Chavez was not a tyrant overthrown by a "democratic" coup, he was a leader so supported by his people that they came out en masse to oppose his ouster.

That crack in the wall of information control was an elating demonstration of democratic power and the power of communications, and could be a sign of things to come. It better be because things are seriously out of control in Washington.

The media outside the U.S. reported more of the facts, and some of the underground media - notably Narco News - reported the unvarnished truth, with no deference to power. That is the kind of media we need.

Because the system of political language itself is so badly corrupted, the kind of communication that will be essential to ward of global disaster will have to come from outside that system. Marshall McLuhan called the artists "the antennae of the race." It is time for the artists (not the corporate packaged entertainers) and thinkers (not the TV pundits) to speak up, to do their work and to lead the way out of this mess. These guys in Washington are a throwback. They are trying to pull the world back to some time before the 1960s and send it off in a fascistic direction.

The change is not going to come from the politicians, and it is not going to come from the established commercial media. They are all too entrenched in a corrupt system.

I often recall Winston Churchill's warning before the Battle of Britain, when he said that if Hitler could break them in Britain, then the fascists would take over the British navy and would succeed in Hitler's plan to dominate the world. In hindsight, it appears that he may have been closer in his projections than most knew at the time. Churchill said:

If we can stand up to him [Hitler], all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the light of perverted science.

This passage returns to me often when I look at what I perceive to be the resurgence of fascism in the postwar world. I see Churchill's nightmare coming true. I see the dark abyss of fascist politics and culture settling in on America and the world. And while the Third Reich only survived 12 years, this resurgence has been more measured, at least until now, and it has remained covert while it consolidated power - "more sinister and perhaps more protracted, by the light of perverted science."

"Perverted" is a key word. The perversion of technology for killing and oppression has certainly been dramatic, but our very language has been perverted and no longer serves to defend us from takeover by fascism. Fascism has succeeded by controlling the dialogue, limiting the flow of certain kinds of information. It will not be from the politicians, but from the artists, those who dare to think beyond the prescribed limitations, that the way toward the future will be revealed. It will begin with the artists, ignite in the heart of the population, and then the politicians will follow and do what they are forced to do.

It is time for a new democratic revolution. It will begin with an alternative media. It is now happening, facilitated primarily by the Web. But the ideas, once freed, may travel through any media.

We are at the brink. We must decide whether we will have a democratic or totalitarian future. If we fail to live up to the universal human aspiration for liberty and self determination, then let's go down in style, in unceasing revolt against the pressure to conform, to keep our minds obediently within the limits prescribed by our would-be masters.

Churchill's words are so stirring, the lines following the passage above beg to be repeated:

Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, "This was their finest hour."

Family Traditions

All The Best George Bush By George Bush

George W. Bush, the son of the former president, has already spent more than anyone ever to become president. The visible part of the campaign tab is only part of the massive effort to put Junior into the presidency. The book All The Best, George Bush by George the Father is part of the campaign. Its role is to promote a nostalgic longing for the dear and respectable former president of a fondly remembered, simpler time. The past is always remembered as a simpler time. But in 1992, when an incumbent was thrown out of office in favor of a n upstart governor of Arkansas, a lot of people didn't feel so fondly about the Bush presidency.

The George Bush of the Gulf War was about as close to the real guy as we will ever see in public. Playing geopolitics is really his passion, and after so many years of having to do it covertly with the CIA and behind the curtain in the Reagan administration, he was finally able to do it openly and turn it into a great drama the whole world watched. If CNN's coverage was to be believed, the whole country was giddy with patriotic zeal. Bush became a John Wayne president and his approval ratings skyrocketed. After the war, they turned downward and finally plummetted.

While the economy went haywire, George barely noticed. Domestic policy wasn't his thing. "The Vision Thing," as he called it, was also a problem. What he loved was geopolitical gamesmanship. He was a protege of Nixon and Kissinger. He was Kissinger's man in Beijing as Mssrs. K and N ravaged Cambodia. The Contra war in Central America, the Panama invasion, Grenada: for that kind of adventure, he was champing at the bit. When it came to the price of milk for the masses, he had no attention span. Like Herbert Hoover saying "prosperity is just around the corner," he maintained that nothing was wrong. He finally acknowledged that the economy was "in freefall" and mumbled "I think I knew it." When the voters saw that he had no idea, it was curtains for George.

After lying low for several years, George Herbert Walker Bush is back with a new memoir timed to coincide with his son's campaign to recapture the throne for the Tories. All the Best, George Bush is designed to reinforce the image of George Bush Senior as an all-American good guy who worked his way up from humble beginnings to the highest office in the country, and served with great dignity. The image of Bush that is circulated in the media is that of a man of "character" who stands for the great American values: hard work, integrity, democracy. These descriptions are not consistent with a close examination of the facts of his career, but there is no danger of any such examination in this book. It is not without its measure of interest, but its value cannot be realized unless it is seen for what it is: a work of fiction.

The letters format, with its loose structure is good for communicating a message of symbols, emotions and generalities, without revealing much historical fact. "This book is not meant to be an autobiography," says Bush in the introduction. "It is not a historical documentation of my life." In this Bush speaks the truth. It is propaganda. Propaganda with a retail price of $30. But it is as close to a real document as we will probably ever get from him. From his induction into the ultra secret Skull and Bones at Yale through his long involvement with the shadowy underworld of the intelligence community, he has lived in a culture of secrecy.

The letters -- or the selections we are shown -- may be more or less authentic for what they are, but the picture they present is a tiny portion of the real George Bush. During the absentee presidency of Ronald Reagan, Bush was a principal behind-the-scenes operator, as would later become clear in the investigations of the Iran Contra affair. When Reagan was hit in the chest two months after taking office, the 70-year-old man needed a prolonged convalescence and was barely present when the foundations of his administration were being laid down. If there was one skill besides acting that Reagan mastered, it was delegation. He was one of the most hands-off presidents ever. This created a massive power vacuum that Bush was extremely aggressive and skilled in exploiting. He took a command position as new covert operational structures were built within the government with names like the Special Situation Group, the Crisis Management Center, the Terrorist Incident Workding Group, the Task For on Combatting Terrorism and the Operations Sub Group. His contacts in the CIA served him well in the implementation of the mechanisms to wage the Central American war in spite of a congressional prohibition. When the Iran Contra scandal unraveled, everything led back to Bush's closest associates, who all got pardons one Christmas Eve a few years later when Bush was president.

The "folksy" image Bush presented to the public is theater. It has little to do with what he is really about. In real life he is both better and worse than the public image. As a covert operator, he is formidable. He knows the channels, has the connections, is well schooled in the techniques of the intelligence communities. The muddle-headed character he presents to the public is Bush attempting to do Reagan, pretending to be the simple guy who stands for old-fashioned American values, who maybe doesn't care for book-learnin' so much, but is earnest and sincere. The real Bush is a smooth operator, much smarter than the public image suggests, but also much more evil. A contrary view to balance this book can be found in the online publication The Unauthorized Biography of George Bush []. It is thoroughly documented, so questions about its content can be investigated.

The Bush of All the Best... is the public image. He carries the fumbling, good-hearted George character into the book, and it makes for some strange reading. The nostalgic, hackneyed language evokes the movie heroes of his youth like Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne: "I have gotten to know most of the fellows in the platoon," he writes at age 18. "They are a darn good-hearted bunch..." Or, "Dear Mum, Gosh it was wonderful hearing your voice today -- It was swell of you to call. I got the message just after I came back from church..."

The language in the book is intriguing. He tells us that Barbara lost her love letters, and he puts the word "love" in quotation marks. One can only surmise what he meant. When Barbara's father approves of their wedding plans, George says he is "terribly glad."

His soul searching about career options rings especially hollow. "So far I haven't been able to make up my mind on what I want to do... Further education isn't out of my mind by a long shot... It took the war, and the Navy to show me how advantageous a good education can be. I say advantageous and not necessary, for I do feel that I would get along with a bit of initiative and honest endeavor provided I could get some employer to give me a chance." In real life, George had no worries about finding "some employer." The family's influential friends were among the wealthiest and most powerful bankers in the world, including Bernard Baruch and the Harriman family, Averell and Bunny.

Plowing through 600 pages of this kind of language is difficult. It reveals a strange mind. As a politician whose public presentation is so at variance with his true motives the prose creates a strange sense of disassociation. I found myself recalling the letters of Ted Bundy, the serial killer whose public image was so smooth, in The Killer Beside Me by Ann Rule. Language has a magical way of revealing the underlying incongruencies, the contradictions between the lines.

The book shows the image the Bush camp wants to present, crafted with the help of some of the best market research money can buy. The research tells what voters will "buy" and the product is fashioned for them. Once a president gets into office, however, there is a no return policy. Voters who wanted real tax reform or affordable health care are not likely to get it.

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