May 15, 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 for it to notice. One might even go so far as to say the Times is awake, barely. But that is not nearly enough.

The situation in the world is an emergency. And what is going on in Washington is a big part of the problem. The Times is built into the institutions that 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. And 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 to react to do any good.

Some of the establishment that is cozy with power seems vaguely aware that things are going dangerously out of control, but 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. 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 of 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 now in the past few months. There is a flicker of the courage to express disagreement with the almighty administration appearing tentatively. But it's certainly no match for the ruthlessness of the bandits that 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 modern world.

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 for years.

The essential new way of thinking 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 the major media system 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 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 loved 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 in other countries besides 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 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."

-- David Cogswell

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