May 19, 2003

Sunday Night Underground

Mark Crispin Miller Live in Manhattan

Mark Crispin Miller's political performance art has morphed from "Bush R Us" into "Operation American Freedom," and it's a good dose of sanity and solidarity on a Sunday night. Last night he performed at a space called Boomtown on 18th Street west of Fifth Avenue.

"I need to get together often to talk," he said. "There are so many things I hear about that make me feel like I'm losing my mind. It's as if Bush had a big Banzai tree growing out of his forehead and no one in the press says anything about it."

The war on terrorism is a failure, he said, but the war on France is going pretty well. He spent a little time explaining how it is that a free society becomes a "bizarro universe" in which people can say black is white and up is down and these "brazen lies resonate as if they were true."

The most effective type of lying is not the outright negation of a fact, he said, but to work the denial into a positive statement. "I am not a crook," was not an effective piece of propaganda. But rather than telling the lie outright, that Bush was NOT a draft dodger and deserter, which he was, Karl Rove puts him in a military outfit and flies him onto an aircraft carrier. It's all done with images and it is done relentlessly. "Our minds are subtly changed through constant immersion in the messages of this culture that lies to us."

Spending an evening with Miller is good medicine for overexposure to a sick culture of lies because Miller is a tremendous resource for countercultural information. As an NYU professor of media ecology and a media analyst and critic who has authored many books and articles, he works very hard to keep himself well informed.

For example, he held up a very ugly looking book called "The Right Man" by a former Bush speechwriter. The cover showed Bush with the megaphone in another notable photo op at Ground Zero only days after he quit flying around the country like a scared rabbit "to get out of harm's way," as he put it, and came down to become a great hero, inexplicably. "I read these things so you won't have to," Miller said, with a wry twist on his lips.

Miller told an anecdote in which the same speechwriter was handed back a draft of a speech all crossed out and told by Bush that the whole message was supposed to be "Bush leads." The photo ops, with Bush in front of Mt Rushmore, or "doing his Tom Cruise impression" on that aircraft carrier, are all designed to legitimize him, because he so obviously lacks legitimacy. And the media all goes along with it in silent, nodding, sheeplike compliance.

Although it is "a very bleak situation," Miller said, "all is not lost. Television is an oddly revealing medium. TV has a way of denying reality, but it also has a way of telling more than the reporters mean to with an X-ray-like mercilessness. It can zero in on lies like a heat-seeking missile."

Bush, he said, is vulnerable to the camera. "Because of his inconsistencies, everything he's about comes through on TV. Here is a 'president' whose whole being is based on the notion of 'us against them.' And that includes you, not just the swarthy ones. It's anyone who disagrees with him. A man who ran on a platform of 'accountability' is really about a few people getting their rocks off. In reality his values are profoundly opposed to the spirit of Christianity and the spirit of democracy. This is fascism Texas style. 'We'll take whatever steps are necessary. There is no such thing as compromise.' It's all attack."

Miller left the audience with a few specific suggestions for actions to take, "what we can do besides going home and shooting ourselves.

"A movement toward democracy can be re-established," he said, and he specified three areas on which to focus attention.

  • The 911 Commission. "It is of crucial importance to get to the bottom of what happened there and to find out why Bush and Cheney are so opposed to information about that day becoming public." See and
  • Impeachment. "Impeachment is not only a nice idea, it is a moral and civic obligation," Miller said. See
  • Voting machines. With Republican corporations controlling the voting machines and keeping their programming secret, "the Democrats could run the most brilliant campaign in history and it wouldn't matter. They could elect Charley Manson president with those machines." See and

    For more information on media distortion, see,, and

    Armed with information and a plan, Miller bid his guests farewell telling them he would be performing regularly at the Cherry Lane Theater in the West Village for the next few months and he hoped to see them often, "at least until they put us all in a barbed wired pen."

    Mark Crispin Miller will perform "Operation American Freedom" Saturdays at 10 p.m. May 31 and June 7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th at Cherry Lane Theater, 38 Commerce Street in the West Village, New York City. Tickets are $20, $10 for students with ID. For reservations call 212-691-4815, 212-998-5188 or email

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