Tuesday, May 27, 2003
In 1984, I quit my job as a reporter at a mainstream newspaper to protest my boss's decision not to publish a story I wrote about the local nuclear freeze movement. I am heartened to hear that some mainstream journalists still stand up to media censorship and the military/industrial complex.
This story can also be read at other sites, including Information Clearinghouse.
Standing up to media censorship and the military/industrial complex
By Jackson Thoreau
In 1984, at the height of Reagan’s militarism, the editor of a Texas suburban newspaper - where I had worked as a reporter for two years right out of college - told me the paper could not print a feature article I wrote on a local woman who began a nuclear weapons freeze organization because it would “upset” advertisers. After all, many of those advertisers worked for the U.S. military/industrial complex.
This is a situation that sadly is more common in today’s media environment than it was in 1984. I had a choice back then: I could meekly resign myself to this ethical roadblock and go back to work, or I could quit my job in protest and find another way to get the story to the public. I was 24, probably even more liberal and idealistic than I am now, and the proverbial “angry young man” who wasn’t going to compromise my idealism and integrity or let anyone stop me from my mission to expose our society’s evil bastards. I was single and didn’t have to worry about feeding a family, as I do now. So, of course, I chose the latter option. I took the story to a competition paper - which published it - and submitted my letter of resignation to my boss. I didn’t regret it then, and I don’t regret it now. In fact, I’m prouder of my stand now, despite what my parents and others think.
I didn’t just quit my job in protest – I joined an intensive, Survivor-like protest march against the worldwide nuclear arms race across this country and Europe to Russia. The stand I took on my former job helped me march some 5,000 miles for the next 18 months. But not even walking all those miles lessened the anger in me or my resolve to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.
Once that was over, I returned to journalism in Texas, starting with weekly suburban newspapers and eventually working as a reporter for a bureau of one of the largest newspapers in the Southwest. Though I had to confront numerous other times in which stories I suggested or did were shot down for various excuses, I did not resign in protest again. I tried to work within the limited corporate framework, taking consolation in small victories, such as being able to cover certain peace demonstrations and progressive causes. I was one of the few to give a voice to local progressive community activists who were shunned by many media outlets. With one of those activists, I wrote a book on the history of a certain Texas city that was viewed as opening the door to greater understanding of the plight of minorities and the disenfranchised.
But that still wasn’t enough for me. The large newspaper where I started working in the mid-1990s had this hypocritical policy that reporters and editors could not express any political viewpoint beyond voting, supposedly because doing so would compromise our so-called “objectivity,” one of many journalism myths with which I had problems. Although many large U.S. papers, including the Washington Post and New York Times, have this suppressive policy, that doesn’t make it right. Europe is more progressive in this area - the leading papers defend the political rights of journalists.
In my case, I thought I could adequately separate my professional and personal life, while retaining my Constitutional rights. I mean, what my employer was saying was that we don’t trust you to be fair and professional in your stories if you care enough about our country to get politically involved. In effect, we are denied our Constitutional rights if we want to keep our jobs. We can’t sign petitions, participate in demonstrations, work on political campaigns or give money to candidates.
Yet, the senior managers could do all that and more – most gave boatloads of cash to conservative politicians. This hypocrisy not only burned me up on the face of it – our upper bosses could flaunt a policy they placed on us – but here we were, an institution that was supposed to support the First Amendment, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to issue hypocritical policies, freedom to find ways to get around them, and we were not exactly practicing what we preached.
Not wanting to openly protest this policy by quitting again because I had a family by this time and I thought I needed the job, the rebel part of me had to find ways to break that policy without getting caught. It became an on-the-edge type of engagement to me, one that gave me a somewhat exciting double life to lead. I attended demonstrations on the guise of covering them for the paper, and usually I would use material and quotes in later stories. I used a pseudonym – my late dog’s name, Jackson - to sign petitions. I helped the campaigns of progressive candidates in ways that I hoped would not be detected. This went on for all of the ten years I worked for that media company.
There were a few times when I thought I would be fired, such as when the book, which we originally self-published before I began working for this larger media company, was reprinted by a local publisher while I worked for that firm. But my immediate supervisor was a cool guy – for a moderate Republican - who also knew the activist, and he probably helped save my job.
After Bush Inc. stole the 2000 presidential election, I became much more active. I added the Thoreau last name to my pseudonym to honor one of my favorite writers and Americans. I began arguing with conservatives on message boards, chat rooms and anyplace I could. I started contributing to progressive electronic journals and Web sites using this pseudonym.
However, there wasn’t much my immediate supervisor could do to keep me from being laid off from my job a year after Bush’s coup, after a decade with that newspaper company. They gave the excuse that all companies give – tough economic times – even though that company was doing fine on its bottom line. Indeed, many big firms making huge layoffs these days are still making good money. The greedy bastards at the top just want more – and Bush and Co. help give it to them with their corporate-friendly policies and tax cuts that mostly benefit these wealthy, greedy bastards.
I thought the layoff had a lot to do with my 40-something age – they had to pay reporters like me more than the ones fresh out of college, even though I sure wasn’t making much. I also suspected it could have had something to do with the book I wrote and my liberal activities. I filed a complaint with the Texas Human Rights Commission, but that, predictably, went nowhere in union-busting Texas, which sides with corporate management on most issues.
I continue to this day to expose and work against Bush-Cheney through my writings and activism, mostly under my pseudonym, which has become more popular than my real name. I have found other ways to make a living to feed my family, including as a photographer, book author and all-around handyman. Fortunately, I’m a man of many talents, and I have discovered, in fact, that I don’t need to keep a low-paying newspaper job whose fascist owners take away our Constitutional rights to survive. Although the mainstream media needs progressive journalists, the thought of working full-time for another such newspaper nauseates me.
But I think it’s important for readers, especially those who criticize the mainstream media with a wide brush, to know something about my story. You never know how many other reporters are doing something like I did, leading a sort of double life because they believe in that basic journalism tenet to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Unless they are a journalist like Seymour Hersh or Molly Ivins, they can’t really openly carry out that principle in today’s upbeat-lifestyle-good-news-bad-news-only-if-it-involves-a-non-Republican-dominated corporate media environment.
Many reporters today are ordered to concentrate on safe puff pieces that speak favorably about companies that advertise. Others are forced to focus on lifestyle stories on the latest high-tech gadget or how to open an IRA - news you can supposedly use - and to make sure you get “real people” to say something to make it appear like the media cares about what the average reader thinks. A few reporters are allowed to chase government and even corporate secrets to make it look like the media still wants to do its job, but their numbers are dwindling and their reports are watered down beside the puff pieces.
Still, some journalists find other ways to live out the afflicted principle, as I did and am doing. And you will never hear about most of those ways.
In recent months, there has been an alarming increase in the number of mainstream reporters fired or reprimanded for simply exercising their Constitutional rights. The result is just what the Bush-Cheney New World Odor [yes, I mean, “Odor,” as in these heartless elitists stink like crap] wants: an increasing working environment of fear in which people goosestep behind their political leaders or stay silent because they are afraid for their jobs or even their lives. I feel for these reporters. As much as progressives like to complain about the media - and I do my share - I also realize the constraints of the profession. It’s hard to quit a job in protest – or even mildly go against the grain - when you have to feed a family in a tough job market. Members of the Bush-Cheney New World Odor know this. It’s all part of the plan. It’s why we have a tough job market today. That’s right, the New World Odor wants a tough economic market to better control us.
In the face of this fascist environment, the convictions and courage of some mainstream journalists continue to inspire me. Henry Norr, a former technology columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, was fired in April for participating in a demonstration against the U.S. invasion of Iraq. That came despite that newspaper not having a policy that reporters or columnists could not participate in demonstrations at that time. The paper has since implemented such a hypocritical, fascist policy against employees taking part in actions against the war that has had a chilling effect on the newsroom, even though corporate bigwigs are free to engage in whatever political activity they want. Norr also covered areas largely unrelated to politics and war.
Norr has filed several complaints with state commissions, including the California State Labor Commission, which prohibits employers from interfering with the political activity of employees. But as he said, at least one media corporation in another state got around a similar law by saying – in a bit of Orwellian doublespeak that Bush-Cheney would be proud of - that the First Amendment gave newspaper owners the right to limit the free speech of employees.
As he awaits decisions from the commissions, Norr continues to take action - he was shot in the leg with a wooden dowel in Oakland and arrested for civil disobedience outside the gates of Lockheed-Martin, the world’s largest arms manufacturer. “I intend to continue exercising my constitutional rights and my moral obligation, as I see it, to oppose the Bush Administration’s reckless and illegal imperial adventures,” he wrote in a statement published recently in the San Francisco Bay Guardian. “Someday I may have grandchildren who ask my daughters what our family did in the face of this madness. At least they’ll be able to say we all tried to make our voices heard - my wife and both of my daughters have also been arrested in civil disobedience this month. And I’m glad to know they won’t have to say that I just stood on the sidelines for fear of retaliation from my employer.”
Ed Gernon is another casualty of these McCarthyism times when you can’t even comment in general about what our country is like without being fired. The veteran TV producer was fired in April from the company that produced the CBS mini-series Hitler after this comment about that project in TV Guide: “It basically boils down to an entire nation gripped by fear, who ultimately chose to give up their civil rights and plunge the whole nation into war. I can’t think of a better time to examine this history than now.” What’s wrong with that, besides using “who” rather than “that?”
Another note for conspiracy theorists: TV Guide is owned by far-right media mogul Rupert Murdoch. Was Gernon set up? At the very least, his firing for expressing an opinion about a society when such opinions were suppressed further proves his point about the parallels between 1930s Nazi Germany and present-day U.S.
Not even a respected Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent like Peter Arnett can get away with saying general comments. He was fired by NBC in March after saying on an Iraqi television station that war planners “misjudged the determination of the Iraqi forces” and that there was “a growing challenge to President Bush about the conduct of the war.” An NBC statement said, “It was wrong for Mr. Arnett to grant an interview to state-controlled Iraqi TV - especially at a time of war - and it was wrong for him to discuss his personal observations and opinions in that interview.”
Why is it ever wrong to state opinions in a so-called “free society?” Could it be that our society is not as free as we like to think it is? Why does our “free society” have to stop allowing freedom of speech and the press when there is a war? Could it be because those opinions might get in the way of executing that war and reduce advertising and thus media owners’ profits? So much for freedom of speech and the press by such hypocritical, greedy media owners.
I don’t buy the argument that Arnett’s comments could have led to more American troops dying, or that he shouldn’t be talking to Iraqi media. American and Iraqi troops and as many as 10,000 Iraqi civilians died because Bush-Cheney invaded Iraq for their own selfish political and economic reasons, not because of anything Arnett said. Put the blood on Bush-Cheney’s hands. And to really get beyond war, we have to stop seeing everything in nationalistic terms. As Tom Paine said, “My country is the world.” But of course, Bush-Cheney won’t stop the patriotic nationalism wave because it keeps them in power.
Republicanazi Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky and others even called for Arnett, who quickly found another job with England’s Daily Mirror, to be arrested and tried for treason. And people in this country still think there are no parallels to Nazi Germany here?
The corporate masters even want to control our private thoughts. Former Fort Worth Star-Telegram business reporter Steve McLinden was axed in March for simply sending a private email critical of a political fascist group called Young Conservatives of Texas. Like Norr, McLinden’s job had little to do with politics, and he wasn’t even getting arrested in a demonstration. All McLinden did was send an email to this group in response to a mass email sent by the conservative group announcing its plans to protest an Austin speech by Our Last Elected President Clinton in February. The hypocritical fascists, who call on others to take responsibility but look for someone to blame whenever something goes wrong under a Republican regime, predictably blamed the Sept. 11 terrorist acts on Clinton. That was despite those actions happening under Bush, who had plenty of warning and went on a month-long vacation right before Sept. 11, 2001, and despite Republicans’ long history of support for military aid and training to terrorists like bin Laden.
As the Fort Worth Weekly pointed out, Young Conservatives of Texas is the same group that has objected to Rice University’s annual Hispanic Professionals’ Leadership Day, called affirmative action “anti-white,” labeled an idea by Democrat Ron Kirk to require high school students to perform community service as a “scheme for Soviet-style social engineering at the hands of Washington bureaucrats,” and filed complaints against Texas hospitals that provide non-emergency care to undocumented immigrants.
So McLinden had every right to send a private email – he didn’t even roast this group in public as the Weekly did – stating that he did not like this organization’s actions. McLinden did so in admirable colorful fashion: “Ah, the heartless, greedy, anti-intellectual little fascists are mobilizing again. Let me guess. All you frat boys saved up your allowances and monies from your McDonald’s jobs for those Beemers you’ll be driving to the protest, and those new jackboots you’ll be sportin’ en route. Hey, don’t forget all the nasty little deals that Reagan’s henchmen cut with Middle East figures that got us directly into this mess today. I’m sure you’ll be protesting the Reagan household any day now. By the way, is it not enough to have the White House and Congress? Would you like to stamp out all signs that we are a two-party, Democratic country? What’s that? You would? How noble of you. I salute you and your polarized, little status-quo world.”
Touche. I couldn’t have written a better response myself. I sent such biting, sarcastic emails to similar fascist groups many times when I was employed under the Thou Shall Not State a Political Opinion Newspaper Slave Owners – I just was smart enough to use a pseudonym and not the company computer.
Then came the fascist owners who control McLinden’s former place of employment, who were informed of the sarcastic email by another mailing by the Young Conservatives. His boss actually sent the conservatives an email apologizing for McLinden’s PRIVATE comments and promptly fired McLinden, who has SIX children. He was canned despite the Young Conservatives making clear in another press release it did not want McLinden fired. So why did the Star-Telegram fire McLinden? To send another chilling, Nazi-like message to its employees that you have no political rights, you are our slaves. We even want to control your PRIVATE thoughts. That is the ultimate Orwellian nightmare coming home to roost.
There are several other examples of such firings. Dan Guthrie, a former columnist for the Grants Pass Daily Courier in Oregon, was fired for describing Bush as “hiding in a Nebraska hole” rather than returning to Washington immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks. Tom Gutting, former city editor of the Texas City Sun, was also fired after he wrote that Bush “was flying around the country like a scared child seeking refuge in his mother’s bed after having a nightmare.”
Las Vegas Mercury editor Geoff Schumacher was among those to condemn such firings. He quoted author Barbara Kingsolver: “It’s a fact of our culture that the loudest mouths get the most airplay, and the loudmouths are saying now that in times of crisis it is treasonous to question our leaders. Nonsense. That kind of thinking let fascism grow out of the international depression of the 1930s. In critical times, our leaders need most to be influenced by the moderating force of dissent. That is the basis of democracy, in sickness and in health, and especially when national choices are difficult, and bear grave consequences.”
Finally, most people have heard that MSNBC fired Phil Donahue in February. But most probably do not know about MSNBC officials’ real reasons, not the fake ones about supposed low ratings. Donahue was a “difficult public face for NBC in a time of war,” according to a company memo. In effect, Donahue was fired simply because he is liberal, still another McCarthyism action.
Then there are those journalists who are not fired from their jobs but lose columns or other forums. Brent Flynn, a reporter for the Lewisville Leader in Texas, saw his column axed earlier this year after he wrote about a Dallas anti-war demonstration in which he participated. “It is ironic that after writing a forceful essay in support of the first amendment, my column was cancelled,” Flynn wrote in a note on his personal Web site [http://brentflynn.com/brent/useful_idiots.htm]. “I was told that because I had attended an anti-war rally, I had violated the newspaper’s ethics policy that prohibits members of the editorial staff from participating in any political activity other than voting. I am convinced that if my column was supportive of the war and it was a pro-war rally that I attended, they would not have dared to cancel my column..…
“I was also told that my objectivity as a reporter would be called into question. However, my opposition to an invasion of Iraq was well documented in previous columns before I revealed that I had participated in the protest. But instead of taking me off of my beat or terminating my employment as a staff reporter, my opinion column was cancelled - the aspect of my job that was enhanced by my participation in the rally. In my opinion, a powerful liberal voice was unwelcome in the conservative Republican county served by my newspaper. The fact that the column was cancelled just days before the start of the U.S. invasion of Iraq raises serious questions about the motives for the cancellation.”
Flynn continues to be a news reporter for the paper, while writing more interesting columns on his Internet site.
Kurt Hauglie, a former reporter and columnist for Michigan’s Huron Daily Tribune, actually resigned in protest from the paper in March after his bosses declined to publish an anti-war column he wrote because it might upset readers.
Meanwhile, right-wing radio disc jocks like Clear Channel’s Glenn Beck – who admittedly aren’t really journalists – can go as far as to organize, not just attend and participate in, pro-war rallies.
Another case came in April when NBC reporter Ashleigh Banfield was rebuked by network President Neal Shapiro for saying in a speech at Kansas State University that television reporters sugarcoated Iraqi war coverage with patriotism and did not show the realities of the conflict. Banfield’s comments were true. For example, CNN’s Moneyline host Lou Dobbs appeared on camera with an American flag pin in his lapel and called weapons inspection head Hans Blix “a petulant UN bureaucrat.” No one dared broadcast pictures of Iraqi children blown to bits by our “smart bombs.” The bottom line is that NBC bigwigs don’t really care as much about telling the truth as they do about making the bucks.
Perhaps some of these reporters really are scared for their lives during wartime and don’t want to further risk their lives by getting the U.S. military mad. Reporters Without Borders, which ranks the U.S. 17th in press freedom with Finland, Iceland, Norway and Holland at the top, accused the U.S. Defense Department and the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission of ignoring its demands for a proper search for two journalists that were missing in southern Iraq for a month. The agencies also refused to investigate deaths of several journalists there. Those are real concerns.
There are numerous other forms of censorship occurring. The country band Dixie Chicks was taken off the air of several radio stations simply for questioning the Iraqi invasion and saying they were ashamed that Bush is from their home state. Right-wingers have organized a campaign to revoke filmmaker Michael Moore’s Oscar and try to keep Bowling for Columbine out of theaters.
The Web site YellowTimes.org, which features original anti-war commentary, was shut down by its Internet hosting company in March, after it posted images of U.S. POWs and Iraqi civilian victims of the war. Orlando-based Vortech Hosting told Yellow Times in an e-mail, “Your account has been suspended because [of] inappropriate graphic material,” according to a press release by Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting.
Another Vortech email said, “As ‘NO’ TV station in the U.S. is allowing any dead U.S. soldiers or POWs to be displayed and we will not either.” The site is now back, however.
In two separate recent cases at malls in New York and Arkansas, people were arrested and charged with trespassing simply for wearing t-shirts with peace messages on them. They were not in the mall to protest, just to have lunch and shop. People can wear all kinds of vulgar, hateful messages on shirts in these malls, but not ones that call for peace, something which Christ and other religious leaders that so many people claim to follow have done.
While today’s society seems like it is becoming increasingly less free on the surface, perhaps there is more happening underneath that will one day unearth itself. Journalism may not be the right-the-wrongs watchdog profession I envisioned it as more than two decades ago, but some people are still trying. Maybe there are more Henry Norrs and Kurt Hauglies in mainstream journalism willing to put their principles on the line than we realize. On the surface, the fascist owners may seem to win when they fire one of us, or make us resign in protest. But that’s only on the surface. Deep down, we push on. The firings and resignations only make us push on harder.
For instance, New York Times Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent Chris Hedges gave an inspiring commencement address to Rockford [Ill.] College’s graduating class in May in which he warned of the dangers of U.S. empire.
“As we revel in our military prowess - the sophistication of our military hardware and technology, for this is what most of the press coverage consisted of in Iraq - we lose sight of the fact that just because we have the capacity to wage war it does not give us the right to wage war,” Hedges said. “This capacity has doomed empires in the past….War, we have come to believe, is a spectator sport. The military and the press - remember in wartime the press is always part of the problem - have turned war into a vast video arcade came. Its very essence - death - is hidden from public view…..We no longer understand that war begins by calling for the annihilation of others but ends if we do not know when to make or maintain peace with self-annihilation. We flirt, given the potency of modern weapons, with our own destruction.”
That a journalist would give such a speech at a relatively conservative university – which admittedly did not receive it well – is reason in itself for hope. Though officials actually turned off Hedges’ microphone at one point – which he called “heartbreaking” – still some got the message.
In addition, perhaps there are more journalists like me in my latter career, leading double lives and getting back at the fascists in other ways. Perhaps some like me write for progressive journals and Web sites under pseudonyms, if just to show the bastards in power that they haven’t gotten to us entirely.
Almost 20 years after the year for the setting of Orwell’s 1984 and some two decades after my resignation from a newspaper in protest of journalistic censorship, I can take comfort that some reporters are still making such stands. And unlike the characters in Orwell’s classic novel, Big Brother Bush-Cheney have yet to totally break our spirits. They can cut us with their doublespeak, jolt us with electricity. But they’ll never take the better part of us, the spirit that makes us freer than they will ever know.
Jackson Thoreau is co-author of We Will Not Get Over It: Restoring a Legitimate White House. The updated, 120,000-word electronic book can be downloaded on his Liberty and Justice For All web site at http://www.geocities.com/jacksonthor/ebook.html. Citizens for Legitimate Government has the earlier version at http://www.legitgov.org/we_will_not_get_over_it.html. Thoreau can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Email from The Raven and others
I found your article rather interesting. What gave me pause was this quote: "Yet, the senior managers could do all that and more - most gave boatloads of cash to conservative politicians."
When I read that line, following as it did your complaint that your political viewpoints were being suppressed by the papers you have worked for, it seems to me that you have a problem with a
newspaper expressing a conservative bias, whereas were it to proclaim a liberal stance you would have no objections whatsoever.
Here, then, is the crux of the matter. It would seem that the owners of a paper have every right to be highly concerned if their reporters are weaving all over the political spectrum. "For God's sake," you can imagine them thinking, "can't these damned writers just get the story and leave their freaking
progressive politics out of it?"
I don't think Europe has any particular edge over us in this regard. The S.F. Chronicle and LA Times are extremely liberal publications, as is the Detroit Free Press - champions of diversity all and deeply committed to eradicating caucasian influence in society. The Chi Trib and Philly Inquirer seem fairly neutral, and the NYT seems fairly left of center. The Wash Post and Times are both rather conservative, yet I'd also argue that fact is what makes them eminently quotable - it isn't their bias per se, rather the lack of obvious slant that makes them solid vehicles for the formation of opinion.
And then there's this: "I have discovered, in fact, that I don't need to keep a low-paying newspaper job whose fascist owners take away our Constitutional rights to survive."
It would seem that you have every right to start your own newspaper and publish whatever news the public deems of value. In fact, I'll bet that if you did start your own paper, "The Leninist Observer" or whatnot, you'd be pretty anxious not to piss off your advertisers. Suddenly, you'd understand where the
"fascist" managers were coming from all these years. What we need to move forward as a people are more citizens who think carefully and deeply about the things that are important, and we need
fewer "activists" whose egotistical concern with feeling good about themselves leads to tremendous wastes of energy and intellectual ennui.
RESPONSE FROM JT: Thanks for your email. I just have to say that I don't have a problem with a paper giving a conservative viewpoint on its editorial page. My problem comes when senior managers can disobey a policy they place on us. That is called being a hypocrite in my book.
I understand how many people in the news business want to please advertisers. But as a writer, that is not my job. My job is to get the story and write it as truthfully, fairly and accurately as I can. It is not to worry about whether something I write will offend an advertiser.
My point is that even though I have progressive views, I can be professional and make sure the story is fair and accurate. I think I have done that throughout my career. I don't need some paper taking away my Constitutional rights, especially when that policy is not enforced on all employees.
Finally, I don't write just to "feel good about myself." I write for many reasons, including because I see a lot of areas that are just not being challenged these days, especially when it comes to the yahoos in the White House.
My particular field of "activisim," is corruption in the courts. However, it has come about thanks to the SAME FACTORS you outlined - information control to brainwash the public, and a "dumbing-down" thanks to our (lack of) educational system, which then makes us all "easy pickings" to be robbed of our rights. I did EXTENSIVE research on it, which culminated in a RICO lawsuit, which can be viewed on civicusa.org - click on "Who Killed Lady Justice?" MY findings were: the "mainstream media" is DEFINITELY involved, as the same big advertisers have their "stoolies" in practically every government committee and foundation, which is responsible to serve the people and give them accurate information.
Hats off to you for hanging in there! We can take our country back, as long as the public is EDUCATED and INFORMED.
Way to go my friend! I can't thank you guys at AmericaHeld enough for helping keep me sane. I also know what it feels like taking a stand and getting dixie chicked, having my promising music career stomped back in the 80's protesting Reagan.
Luckily I didn't have a family either (and never did get to afford one), but we can see where these so-called moral majority folks have taken us. I haven't lost a lick, just as strong and vital (maybe better) than way back then, and ready to surface whenever that economic and political ice breaks above me.
My latest tune has the chorus: "Our flag's been ripped down and spit on, by those who claim to love it most, over the protest of any, and the founding fathers ghosts. Our flag has been ripped down and shredded, and used as a filthy bloody rag, by those who do evil in its' name, and want your freedoms
Wouldn't that be a fun little pop tune to have on the air right now? I'm that missing artist between Bob Dylan and Rage Against The Machine haha. Good luck out there on all this madness, my friend.
I just read one of your articles: Big Brother Bush-Cheney have yet to totally break our spirits, and just wanted to say that I was very moved by what you said about going against the grain.
I know it's often difficult to report anything honestly about the 'powers that be' unless you speak of them in glowing terms, and I, for one, have always found it almost impossible to know where to draw the line on idealism - one does need to earn after all.
I just read your column on the Information Clearing House website. In a real, conflicted, human way, it eloquently points out that we all make choices, and that we must be held responsible for the choices which we make.
I don't know if you're familiar with a poem entitled, "The Apolitical Intellectuals" by poet and revolutionary, Otto Rene Castillo, but it's a powerful statement of what you write about being, "...asked what you did when the light of liberty was being extinguished in our country".
As a writer, I was especially delighted by the wonderfully dry, double or triple-layered irony of the taking to task of Ed Gernon's grammar. You obviously have put in your time as an editor of not just your own writing, but of that by others. But seriously (don't call me seriously, my name is Jackson), don't you think the punishment for violating Strunk & White a bit extreme for the crime? Let's just call Rupert and explain it to him. I'm sure, once he has all the facts, he'll apologize to Ed, reinstate him, shake his hand, write him a check for back salary, and, to show there's no hard feeling, throw in a little something extra.
As someone who obviously is concerned with turning this Titanic of a country of ours before it hits the iceberg, I thought you might be interested (if you aren't already) in what's going on with independent politics in Texas. A friend of mine has been working her butt off in Austin to build a political force that can wield a powerful political stick to hit these bastards upside the head (cause we know, that's what it takes to get their attention.)
While I throughly enjoyed both the content and style of your writing, what I thought was missing --and, as well, missing in so many other good pieces about what is happening in America-- was what your readers can DO (as this is an email, I can't italicize DO, so I capitalized it. Forgive me).
I believe that building independent politics is the only hope we have to change the TweedleDee/TweedleDum seesaw of power that has been the virtually unassailable status quo for lo these many years. And since you no longer are constrained by a media oligarch's undemocratic and unconstitutional hypocrisy, if you like what you find (unless you already have), by golly, you can just
join right in on the fun.
Just finished reading your opinion piece at Information Clearing House. Thank you for standing up and describing a systemic assault on the rights and liberties of this people and the peoples of the world. I think that we are now on the verge of perennial conflict with much of the world and that we are, and have been, at war against the people and Constitution and Bill of Rights of this country.
That Mr. Hedges was booed at Rockford College is no surprise to me. I live in a community near Rockford, Illinois and have lived in the area and Rockford itself. This is very much a corporate community. Its population have been raised and educated to accept carte blanche what is told them by institutions - governmental, corporate and familial. The one major newspaper - Rockford Register Star - is owned by Gannett and long ago gave up any semblance of responsible journalism in favor of repeating shamelessly whatever a given authority figure - government or corporate - claims. We are addicted to suv's, mortgages, beer - and other drugs -, sports, tv and belonging. That Rockford is not unique in this country is very disturbing.
My background is: USMC Vietnam Era Vet (volunteered December, 1972), former Adjunct Assistant Professor in Business and Management for Cardinal Stritch University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and former small business owner. I do not think that I am a rabid revolutionary nor a mindless adherent to a popular or given philosophy. I am trying to make a difference by public speaking, writing letters and calling our elected/purchased representatives. I am seeking a way to do more.
I am most interested in communicating with you and developing strategies and methods to further a public discussion about the direction that our nation is going. If you have the time and inclination I would appreciate the opportunity to e-mail you and enlist your assistance in considering and editing and discussing articles and writings.
Thank you for speaking out.
I received a nice note from Michael Copps, an FCC Commissioner that does battle with Michael Powell on a daily basis. I had written him after seeing his appearance on PBS, speaking about the rule changes which allow concentration of media ownership. He is fighting an uphill battle to prevent Rupert Murdoch from controlling the Ministry of Truth.
The Communications Act of 1996 was the worst thing Bill Clinton ever did.....far more damaging that any Oval Office antic.
The loss of our Fourth Estate and the curious capitulation by our mainstream newspapers and journalists give me a sense of impending doom. Among my acquaintances, none, more than can be counted on one hand, feel as strongly as I do. It is refreshing to read your essays, so that I don't feel isolated in my opinion about our lost freedoms.
On KLRU, a day or so ago, was an interview with Greg Palast, who I imagine you know very well. I recalled his interview today when reading your trials with employer / censors. He suffered the same problem and solved it by leaving the country to work with BBC and the Guardian. We need your voices, so keep writing and I will keep reading.
I keep wondering how long this attempt to smother the smouldering volcano of folks like you with conviction and training, journalists, is going to go on without blowing up noisily and undeniably even by Bush and Co.. I've been to your web site, and I go to Smirking Chimp and others and I just wonder.
What'd happen if some of you guys with conviction, and justifiable outrage got your heads together to put out a Web site,on the model of, like, oh, Christian science monitor on a weekly or twice a week basis? How many $5 dollars would it take to make this work? I say five cause my pension gives me tight
opportunity to survive. The Columbia Journalism Review which I subscribe to, is edging in this direction of being sure enough journalists in these times,but pulling it's punches. You don't have to be mad. Just professional. A journalist like you are must have many others you know about who are as upset and
angry as you are, and I'll betcha they know others. Get a BUNCH of pseudo names and put out a web paper which tells it like it is. No exaggeration, just tells it like it is.
Course you could have "letters to the editors", and opiinion pieces in it. And you could have a section in it about reporting on the reporters: newspapers, media in general coverage. Oh man would you have an avid reader in the likes of me. And in the circle of friends I have.
I suspect the "leaning on the t roops" process in which top management lets you know if you want to keep your job with"us" you better not embarrass the GOP or Bush, or Ashcroft etc., never in a memo or any paper trail, but just "leaning on" you is the order of the day most all over.
How about a breath of fresh air? There's gotta be someone out there with enough coin to fee nagle this thing, and as I say, I'll betcha there lots of folks, Dem/green/GOP who'd like to see the news really returned to the glory of what being a journalist is all about.
Get a bunch of folk who see it all like you do together, even if it's cyber, and do a weekly or bi weekly or something. See where it goes. Here comes the cop out. I wish I could do something. Heart problems,
vascular problems, etc. age stuff won't let me. I'm back water. But I got $5, maybe $10. Tie a knot in some thread and begin sewing. Whatever. Thanx very, very much for this article in The Smirking Chimp. It
These are the times.
I love you man! You have courage, strength of your convictions, and your actions and words are truly uplifting. Sometimes, we peaceniks and lovers of life feel discouraged, outnumbered, worn out and jaded, until someone like you comes along to, once again, remind us that we are neither outnumbered nor alone, and that our love of life and our positive determination to make this world a better place really is possible, and that it requires faith, hope, desire, commitment, energy and action, and Inspiration (being reminded). Yeah baby!
Though I am not a journalist, I, too, have been punished (several or perhaps many times, I can't keep count. But I do know the score, and though on the outside I sometimes look like a loser, and on the inside, sometimes feel like one, I wake up and realize that I am not.) for standing up to and speaking out against injustice or wrong doing, for daring to defy the slave masters, the war lords (medieval mo'f...rs!) for demonstrating integrity, especially at work. Sometimes, I was defending myself, sometimes others, sometimes principles. It cost me, sometimes a lot. But it was always worth it, and besides, I`ve still got my soul and many, other blessings.
Reading your story this afternoon, gave me a much needed shot in the arm today.
Peace out brother. God bless you and yours. Keep on standing. Right on! Write on....
I almost forgot to say, "THANK YOU".
GREAT piece on the Information Clearing House! You crack me up I would have never guess that was not your name! Keep up the great work. My Family also has not stopped expressing their Disapproval of my life! I have never been close to them, I use to pray that I was adopted then everything would make since, I do not come around them very often, holidays and only if my mom really complains.
Bbut mostly I do not bother. I love them but do not feel the need to subject myself to the bullshit and crap that I know will follow.
Anyway you made my day I was tired and a little sad being in Los Angels away from my chosen family, who is in Fresno, all 5 Friends who I love moer that life itself. I find you and am encouraged tomorrow is another day who know what wonderful thing will be given me!
Maybe it's time for a journalist movement. After all there are more of you then there are of them. Journalist strikes? Get together and start your own media conglomerate? Start a newspaper? Radio stations? TV News stations?
Pool your resources .... I've learned first hand that it only takes one to get the ball rolling and there most definitely is strength in numbers. Connect with other journalists, to those politicians like Gore that are speak out against media consolidation, and the people with money that are against it ... form a network. To fight them you have to become a large voice.
Here our school district was on the verge of major cuts ... losing 12 teachers, programs, the buildings were falling apart ...... It was in disarray and we hadn't passed a school budget in 11 years. We were also facing an embedded and very strong good old boys network that was working against us. My children were young, I was naive to the workings of the network, but being the rebel I am, I went to a few that I hardly knew, but people I knew were upset about the way things were and we banded together for our own movement.
We basically said screw them and we went to the people ... the parents ... we gained strength by adding to our numbers and growing in opposition to the good old boys. Growing in numbers automatically happens when others are ready to take a chance and step up to the plate ... some do it right from the beginning and other's need time to get over their fears. We also took anyone that was willing to give any time, no matter how small, to the cause in whatever way they could. Needless to say we've won and we've passed 11 of 12 school budgets since that time, as well as, changed the caliber of the education in the school district. We started out as 6 people and have grown to hundreds that are willing to help elected pro-education candidates to the board of education and pass the yearly budget.
Now when districts all over the country are having to make big cuts to weather the Bush storm, we have the ability to ride it out for a while and do it under budget.
There a lot to be said about working for Nobel causes, it's a powerful motivation for people and I have found as long as you keep your eye on the goal and go about it in a manner that is honest and above board, it's difficult for others that are more powerful to undermine the honesty and truth of the noble cause. In other words we always made sure we were honest and that we crossed every t and dotted every i.
Look what just happened when the antiwar movement banded together ... common goal, they didn't win, but they sure weren't ignored, their voices were heard and they can't be stopped, but they also need journalists to report the truth. Many of you have readers ... together you all have a wealth of contacts, and people to support you. Someone just needs to take the ball and run. I have found it works and it works better than the lone wolf, or a number of lone wolves separately fighting city hall.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for your courage and perserverence. How can this article be sent to people in power? This is such a frightening time---and the implications of what you are writing are horrific for this country. Sometimes I feel like there is nothing I can do, and then I read these kinds of articles and feel renewed to say the emperor has no clothers. Keep up the wonderful work.
WOW!! I believe you have outdone yourself!! You made me cry and you made me angry. I am so proud to know you!
It was a long, hard read. I'm a speed reader and I had to take it slow. Once again, wow, powerful, powerful!