Rated NC-V: Not for Citizen Viewing
What is it about citizens viewing unfiltered media that makes the Bush administration nervous? Everything.
To understand this, you need to understand that the current administration, just like the original Bush administration, is all about imagery. A well-informed voter is not its best customer. The Bush administration manufactures opinion. The truth is its enemy.
George Herbert Walker Bush built himself up by juxtaposing himself with others. He was considered such a lightweight as vice president that he bragged about kicking a woman's ass in a debate. Afraid of being overshadowed by a running mate with stature, he chose Dan Quayle as his candidate for vice president. As president, Bush I chose a theme of good versus evil, us versus them. A single human face was put on the enemy. The terrorist was Saddam (Iraqi President Saddam Hussein). The drug dealer was Noriega (Manuel Noriega, Commander of the Panamanian National Defense Forces). Saddam and Noriega were the perfect foils. These two men, like rock stars, were known to Americans by single names and were used interchangeably by Bush I to manufacture public opinion. Bush and his administration obfuscated the details of the war against Saddam and the war against Noriega. They kept the press at a safe distance and force-fed the news. Lies, like the effectiveness of the Patriot Missile, buttressed the imagery. Bush I took credit for winning two wars, the Gulf War and the War on Drugs, and had CNN footage for proof. Only an electorate sired on professional sports, where the same enemies battle year after year, would believe that Bush I won either of these two wars.
The senior Bush, drunk on high approval ratings, and with no major Democrat willing to declare his candidacy, was counting on a second term. Then the American public got a reality check. The economy went into a slide, Alan Greenspan refused to drop interest rates, and Bush's popularity plummeted faster than a number one movie left at the box office too long. A little guy with big ears used charts and his own money to tell the truth about Bush and his presidency. The election was about the American economy, not false bravado. William Jefferson Clinton was the beneficiary. The senior Bush was left to read his own lips mouthing a series of four-letter words.
The junior Bush learned a lot of lessons from the fall of his father. In the presidential race, he savaged his Republican and Democratic opponents with lies and innuendo, and called himself compassionate. He brought women and minorities into the inner-circle alongside the older white men. He took advantage of a third-party candidate from the Left who forgot that public policy was more important than his ego. He believed that the ends justify the means, so he and his handlers lied, cheated and stole an American presidential election, forever politicizing the United States Supreme Court in the process. After taking office, they did what they do best. They gave money to the rich, making amends for the senior Bush's foray into tax sanity. They invited their Texas energy buddies to bilk the largest state in the union of billions of dollars through sham energy trades. When the association got ugly, "Kenny Boy" became "Kenny Who." Records of the administration's contact with private interests who fed at the public trough were either kept from the American people altogether or redacted. Under the watch of Bush II, America fell off a cliff, with two of its tallest towers crumbled.
One would think that the gig would be up, but it is not. With the help of Islamic extremists Bush II has put a new face on terror and dug up an old one. Osama bin Laden is wanted "dead or alive" and Saddam is part of an "Axis of Evil." Like his father, Bush II declared a victory in a Middle East war and now tells Americans that our "Homeland Security" rests on their willingness to go to war against 60 other nations. Bush II won the war against Afghanistan, possibly the most backward nation on earth, but the terrorists came from Saudi Arabia. That country was left unscathed.
The media, who have profited from the imagery of war, have been willing to go along for the ride. An investigative reporter, instrumental in ending the Nixon presidency, wrote a puff piece on the Bush presidency and the events of September 11. Later, through the testimony of individuals, not investigative journalism, Americans learned that numerous errors and irregularities in the administration of our national security allowed the terrorist acts of September 11 to take place. Gore Vidal has said that when Jack Kennedy's approval ratings went up after the Bay of Pigs fiasco, he told Vidal, "In this job, the worse you fuck up, the higher the ratings." When it comes to fucked-up popularity, Jack Kennedy was no George W. Bush.
The president, pretending that no office of government existed to protect our nation against attack, has invented the Office of Homeland Security. Admitting there were people, including himself, responsible for protecting our national security would imply that they did not do their jobs. Better for the president who ran on a campaign that less government is better government to add a whole new federal agency than admit the truth. Bush II is always selling. A compliant media, afraid of being un-American during a time of war, is always buying.
Now we are being told that security will come at a cost to a long history of freedom and civil liberties. I watched the propaganda video of Daniel Pearl's execution today because my government tried to censor its publication. It was gruesome and made me sick to my stomach. Pearl was butchered because he was an American and a Jew. He committed no crime. He personally harmed no one. He was murdered to intimidate Americans, to recruit militants to a cause and to further the political aims of the National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistan Sovereignty. This was a hate crime.
If the administration had its way, the video would be banned from view by Americans. If I had not watched the video I would not have known that my government had lied to its citizens about the video. The FBI publicly claimed that they ordered Orgish.com to take the video off its site "out of consideration for the family" of Daniel Pearl. That statement was a lie. The government acted to suppress the video for political reasons. That fact is clear even if their specific objectives of the government in their attempts to suppress the video remain unstated. What is most telling about the move to suppress was that the government tried to use obscenity laws to threaten Internet media outlets. Faced with a noncompliant media outlet, a conservative administration used the threat of trumped-up criminal charges to control what American citizens could see. That is Orwellian.
Prior to his execution, Pearl talks about his Jewish background and American foreign policy in the Middle East. Pearl's statements were made under extreme duress. The cadence of his words was broken up by a collage of images of the woman and children of the Middle East that had died or were suffering. The piece is propaganda in its most wicked form. No doubt its publication has caused the family of Daniel Pearl great pain. That alone is reason not to view the video but it is not reason to censor its publication.
The Phoenix, an alternative newspaper in Boston with a long history of publishing stories avoided by the major media, broke ranks. In an editorial, it wrote: "The silence on this issue—the United States government's attempt to censor politically sensitive, yet legal content—from our leading pundits and opinion makers has been deafening." I concur. A mass media that never refrains from pushing the bounds of decency, and always refrains from showing victim's families "consideration," has laid down like an old dog in the face of government pressure.
Lyndon Johnson hated the media coverage of civil unrest in support of civil rights and in response to the war in Vietnam. We know today that press coverage was critical to ending the war and passing civil rights legislation. Mayor Daley cursed the cameras and the newsmen that brought the fascism taking place in the streets of Chicago into American living rooms. That coverage curbed the heavy hand of government. Nixon shouted expletives at the news stories in the Washington Post that documented how his administration obstructed justice. Those stories led to his resignation. Alas, a once great press has abdicated its historic role in American politics as a critical check and balance on the abuse of government power. The media, owned and controlled by large corporations, now serve government as a propaganda arm.
Last week our government fought to force libraries to filter Internet content. Sorry, but I no more trust government paternalism than I do government censorship. American liberty has withstood the airing of footage of Jack Kennedy's assassination that relegated to fantasy the Warren Commission's findings. Publication of photos of the lynching of black men and the gruesome photos of Emmett Till did not incite violence: they told the truth about segregation and violence. The shocking photos of a young, naked Vietnamese girl burned with napalm brought home the horror of the Vietnam War to Americans in their homes. The publication of the brutal beating of Rodney King led to riots but also forced police departments all over America to increase minority membership and stop abuse. Who among us would support the censorship of the publication of these painful but historic photos?
Isn't it time that the media turned a truthful lens on George W. Bush and his administration?
link library |
privacy statement |
mailing list | home (with this week's columns and links)