October 20, 2002

Sean Penn to Bush: 'help save America before yours is a legacy of shame and horror'

Sean Penn invested $56,000 to take out a full page ad in the Washington Post to send a message to George W. Bush with words much wiser than any we've heard from most of our so-called leaders in recent times.

Penn literally begged the U.S. dictator to stop the cycle of violence in which "bombing is answered by bombing, mutilation by mutilation, killing by killing."

It's certainly a strange time we are in, when the established positions of society, including political offices and major media channels, have all been coopted by corporate money and all echo the same insane message, so the message of humanity is forced to find other channels. We have a "president" who is no more than a bad actor reading lines prepared for him and carrying out the agenda of his wealthy backers, and now we have professional actors who show more intelligence, wisdom and integrity who are speaking out against the death agenda of Big Oil and other major factions within the corporate state.

The same inversion has taken place with media. Some of the most valuable and incisive journalism today is from Ted Rall, who is a cartoonist. When the major organs of establishment "journalism," like CNN and Fox, have become cartoonlike in their structure and content, then why shouldn't real reporters who are not dupes of the corporate state, like Rall, put out news in the form of cartoons. (Rall recently published a report of the U.S. attack on Afghanistan called To Afghanistan and Back that is mostly written as a strip cartoon.)

Now that the corporate right wing has effectively monopolized both business and the government, government is no longer an effective protection for the people. The political system is coopted by corporate donations and completely neutralized as a mechanism for protecting the people against abuses of power by wealthy factions. The political sphere is no longer a battleground in the war to protect what is left of democracy in America, so now the war has shifted into the cultural arena. Here the corporate interests will have a little harder time winning.

Although corporate interests dominate the entertainment industry as much as any other, they cannot entirely control the substance of the industry, that is, the art itself. To the extent that the arts are monopolized by money interests, as in the recording industry, the product loses vitality and eventually stops selling. The industry will always be forced to seek fresh new material, which will always come from the hearts and the creativity of artists who are relatively pure channels. And those people, almost by definition, cannot be controlled and kept within the boundaries of what the corporate state deems an acceptable message.

As the outrages piled on top of each other following the stealing of election 2000, I was wondering when people like Barbra Streisand, Woody Harrelson and Sean Penn would start to speak out. They are among the few who can still rise above the control systems that keep things the way they are. They are celebrities, so what they do is by definition news. That gives them a platform, and they can use that platform to express something of real value if they choose to. They are financially independent enough not to have to worry about being unemployed and homeless within a few weeks if they step out of line. Now, thank God, more and more of them have decided to do their part to stop the madness.

Hats off to Sean Penn, Woody Harrelson, Barbra Streisand, Susan Sarandon, Timothy Hutton, Martin Sheen, Gabriel Byrne and ... John Lennon. Give peace a chance!

-- By David Cogswell

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