Saturday, April 26, 2003 :::
Speaking of culture wars and the bereft TV environment… I came across this site…
I no longer watch TV, as you the reader can tell. Well I do, but usually it is News World International or BBC America. Point is, they recommended that people turn their TV off. They recommended this during sweeps week… gee golly I have not watched US TV in a while, well save C-SPAN, does that count? I guesss…
So let’s see, do they have a point?
The only way that TV executives will notice that we, their expected public, are not paying attention, is for them to notice that we are simply not watching. So do yourself a favor and turn the TV off.
So you will ask, how do I get my news? I mean I watch (insert alphabet soup here) loyally to be an informed citizen…
Here are some great sites you can go visit to get links to articles and news.
First off, the British Broadcasting Corporation, which tends to cover news in a very refreshing and as objective manner as possible. It almost makes me teary eyed to think of Cronkyte and his style of news reporting. You never knew his politics and you will never know the politics of the BBC. What is even better, you can even listen to BBC radio on the Net, if you have a good and fast connection…
Then there is Buzzflash… great commentary, good links and most importantly timely coverage.
If you really are into items affecting the news media, then you are doing yourself a disservice if you do not go to Take Back the Media (which incidentally we need to do if we are to save our democracy)
Now if you really care for this democracy, I urge you to read Greg Palast’s site. You will be horrified, I can assure you. I also wish our lapdog media would pick up even half his stories. (By the way he is as American as apple pie, but those in power do not like him that much. He tends to follow the old axiom of making all rather uncomfortable… and doing us a favor). Just the how and why Katherine Harris changed the rules of the game in Florida should be enough to horrify any American. But wait.. there is more… Bin Laden and Bush? Surely you jest… and after you are done I urge you to go buy his book The Best Democracy Money can Buy… trust me, this is the Watergate of the day… and our ever so “free and objective” American Press lies silent like good Golden Retrievers…
But, but what about ER, or the Lacy Peterson Murder? Trust me you can live without ER or any other program and the Peterson tragedy is soft news, meant to keep you distracted from what truly matters… good boy, here is another bone… aka scandal du jour.
So the Malaysians are thinking of decoupling their economy from the US Dollar (Australian radio), and SARS was a crisis well before our lapdog media noticed, (CBC). Did I mention the Parliamentary revolt in the UK, and the fact that now an investigation into the Intelligence Services might be under way? Trust me you will not get this out of the Lapdog media… nor will you find out that Congressman Waxman has asked the GAO to look into Halliburton and dirty deals… nope, ABC will not cover this, and CBS will not either… but the Observer (UK) will, as well as the Independent. By the way, just to be helpful, here is a site with a good selection of UK papers, ranging from the right to the left, and everything in between. Sad, but you might want to make the Guardian a regular read, as they tend to report stories such as Primaries being suspended before the American Media even thinks of it… amazing, to find out what is going on in my own country I have to sift though … the British Press…
Oh and I do have to give one particular place more than just a pass… since they do the best job of all, or at least try… Yahoo News
So if you ever wonder why scandals in the States seem to break out of the blue? (Assuming they do) Well mostly we are the last to know. Trust me, by the time we know the scoop, the story is well, old news in the rest of the world.
So do yourself a favor and turn that TV off… you will also have more time to spend with the family.
So what other activities could replace your hours in front of the TV? How about snuggle with a good book, and a cup of hot tea? (The Best Democracy Money Could Buy should be avoided though after dinner, does not help digestion, but what about King Lear? I am sure you have wanted to read it for a while). How about some of those wonderful board games? Remember them? I am sure you can play a game of Risk or Monopoly with the kids. Of course there are other joys you could try. How about going out for a walk? Maybe go down to the coffee shop and just spend a couple hours talking.
Hey you could even try a new hobby.
These are some ideas, and I am sure they will be taken seriously by those who want to send a message to the Corporations. After all, what happens when you have a product to sell and nobody shows up to buy it? This is the kind of situation they will find themselves in… or their viewers will be so narrow that the rest of us can just look at the blank screen and maybe use it for games, or to play our favorite movies… just go over the commercials…
::: posted by nadin at 1:48 AM
Friday, April 25, 2003 :::
When one turns the TV to any of the networks one is met by a bereft media cultural landscape. Screams seem to dominate discussion and civilized debate is absent. This is so frustrating that some Americans no longer watch much TV. How did we move from TV that challenged the viewer to a sea of channels where only pabulum can is offered? How did we move from meaningful TV, with wittiness and cultural criticism to reality shows that offer nothing but pretty pictures? Can we believe that most Americans actually like what they can find on TV? I sometimes wonder if this is nothing more than the media offering pabulums and the people just taking it because there is nothing better to be seen. At times I wonder if there is something far more serious and sinister going on. These programs offer nothing, but keep the population in an unthinking state of mind. This is not a conclusion that any body would like to admit. I do not expect the media to admit this either. After all, they are offering what the people want, right? Or are they offering only what offers them a quick buck, at the expense of quality? If the people watch it why change? The costs of change could be some serious money, as actors writers and film crews would need hiring. This is just a symptom of something far more serious, which is in some ways the death of the culture, as a rich and vibrant cultural landscape. These days sameness permeates all, from the news media to the TV and movies that are put out. There is nothing with edge. There is nothing that questions the status quo. There is nothing that challenges. This is part of the Culture Wars. This is the latest front in this war, and the American people are loosing.
What we have witnessed since 9.11 is the revival of the Culture Wars of the 1980s. The politics of this revival is quite obvious. Some in the Conservative movement believe that this is a unique moment where the America we know can and will be destroyed in the name of...culture. They see the attack on America as a symptom of what is wrong with the Liberal mind set. They firmly believe that it is us who have brought this upon ourselves since we are a people of sinners, as we were told by Reverend Grahamm. We are told that we should blame the Blame America Crowd for the attack that obviously came from a lack of national fortitude. Never mind that the massage some in that crowed have given is one that the Right does not want to hear. Maybe, just maybe, we are suffering from what experts call blowback. Maybe our foreign policy did play a role in this attack. They also refuse to admit that those in the Left see Al Qaida as the true threat to the nation, and the Western World. It seems that in this new stage of the Culture Wars anybody willing to critique the President of the United States or how the policy is being carried out, is an enemy of the State.
The American Right is now engaged in a frontal attack on any in the left, or anybody who opposes the policies of the current President. Charges of treason have been leveled, and anybody who speaks against the President is now told, he is against the country. This kind of language is not only dangerous but fully un-American. After all dissent is a precious American right and indeed value. Where our founding Fathers the first serious dissenters? Indeed they were, but today’s Right would convict them of treason. Those who do not agree with current policies and are willing to give a reasoned response are just as American as those supporting the policies of the current administration. We only forget this reality at our peril, and the sacrifice would be great to the nation. Can the sort of language used by the Right hold any danger for our Democracy? Indeed it can. We know of periods in Western History when one group, religious or political, has been first persecuted and then repressed in the name of the State. This is the danger in the current culture wars. This is an early taste of Fascism that now permeates the Culture Wars.
This attack is also a frontal assault on high culture and all that it stands for. This is partly the tension between the Educated and the Populist going all the way back to President Andrew Jackson in 1824. His was a populist President, the first we ever had. He ran against the established and effete East Coast Establishment, represented by President John Quincy Adams. Our President is in some ways a Populist appealing to those who are not part of the cultural elites of the east or the west coast. In fact, President Bush and President Jackson are unified by their appeal to the feelings of inadequacy of those who do not understand the high culture of the age. The difference is that Andrew Jackson was a well educated man, while our current President seems not to be. Moreover, our current Chief Executive is proud of not being a curious man. In a sense he has raised the pride of those who hate high culture to an art form. He has risen anti intellectualism to a cherished place.
The reaction from the Right to the burning and looting of the museums was quite telling of what is wrong. They were willing to blame all, but our policies for this cultural disaster. The comments of freedom is untidy from the Secretary of Defense were insulting. Yet they were not surprising. We could not be held responsible. We could not be held accountable. There is no guilt in our actions, or lack of actions. Our obligations under international Law notwithstanding, responsibility is not ours but somebody else's. At one time President Truman said that the buck stopped at his desk. It seems that today the buck stops somewhere else, but never at the desk of those nominally responsible. I posit this is a very serious consequence of this culture wars. In this war for the hearts and minds of the American people responsibility for anything is quickly transferred to the other. It is the Liberals, it is the Iraqis, it is the other who is guilty, but it is never us. We are never responsible, and should never be held accountable. If need be we will revise history to cover for our mistakes. Hence the lionization of both Presidents Nixon and Reagan who could never do anything wrong. Hence we now face double standards of behavior. Any time a Liberal does anything wrong, or that can be misconstrued that way, the screams of impropriety are quick. When any of the chosen few does anything wrong, this is ignored if possible or played down when it is unavoidable. Case in point the Lott and Santorum incidents. Both used inappropriate language, but the problem was ignored as long as possible. Hence the pattern has emerged. They will doggedly pursue their opponents, even beyond any sense of normalcy, but never take responsibly for any actions, right or wrong.
The attack on high culture is well orchestrated. It is on every night at FOX news, and every day in the AM dial. The people who practice it are transferring blame for all that is wrong with the country to the mythical and very powerful left. Of course it is the left who has dragged the country to the sorry state of affairs it now faces. Never mind that the left is very small and for the most part has no access to the microphone or media outlets. As Eric Alterman has shown, the Media is a Right Wing Concern, and in recent months it has become quite brazen about its true political leanings. This blame the other for your own mistakes is a tactic that works well in States that are on the decline, or on the edge of dictatorship. Yes I posit that our culture is in decline and the country has reached its zenith, culturally and politically.
These words will surely be attacked by the Right. After all this sounds like the blame America first crowd. It does not matter that I am not a member of the Left, or hold many of the ideas of the Left sacred. It does not matter that I understand the critique well. It does not matter that all I ask is for the Right to own to their responsibility in the decline of the United States. They are part and parcel of this problem with their blame other Americans philosophy and Politics of Personal Destruction. They have betrayed the dream. How have they become traitors?
Let’s list some of the items in this indictment.
The Right knows about symbols. They understand the power of symbols. They know that flags look nice, behind the leader. Yes Flags are important and look nice in parades, but rallying around the flag is only rallying over a symbol. A symbol is meaningless when those who use it abuse it. I posit the flag has been abused as a symbol by the Right. This particular symbol now lies tattered and bloodied on the floor as it is abused by a party that only likes to wave it, but does not understand what the flag means. This has proven by their abuse of the 9.11 tragedy for very narrow political concerns. In effect the Right has betrayed the flag in this abuse. In fact the Right has unwittingly given a victory to the terrorists. If the goal of terror is to change a nation, it has as we reject the values that are truly American for something Alien and un-American.
The flag has been used by men such as Savage and Limbaugh to push a false sense of patriotism onto the American psyche. This flag has been used to push a racist agenda at times. One just has to listen to Savage for ten minutes to be reminded of another era when flags were used to prop another...dictator. There is a definite whiff of racism and Living Space in this new form of Jingoism.
Savage in particular, but the rest of the right wing pundocracy have pushed a very un-American agenda onto the America people. This is an agenda that is Alien to most Americans. This new version of the Culture Wars seeks to demonize an ideology that helped to build the country. Liberalism has been put in the docket of history, not unlike the Nazi abuse of Communism or Socialism. Some of us are expecting to see the reeducation camps one of these days because of the abuses by these pundits. No this is not a defense of Socialism or Communism, but pointing out the parallels in the use of worlds, language and assignment of blame. Indeed, the language coming from the extreme right, chiefly Savage, Coulter and Limbaugh, but also out of FOX, is very reminiscent of the early years of Nazi Germany.
To use Professor Blooms phrase there is indeed a closing of the American Mind. Though I hardly mean this sentence it in the same sense as Bloom meant it when he wrote his book. The American mind is closing to what is to be an American. Increasingly tolerance is seen as a liability. Pluralism and the pursuit of happiness are also seen as a liability. There is a concerted attack by the Extreme Right on any and all intellectual pursuits. What is more worrisome though is the frontal attack on the Constitution for the sake of defending the Constitution. One has to wonder how you can defend the Constitution while shredding it. Some of the comments from the Pundits regarding free speech makes one wonder if they even understand what the term truly means.
This Second Culture Wars are very dangerous indeed for the United States. They might indicate many disturbing trends. One of those trends might be the ironic decline of American Civilization at the point of zenith. We have turned away from what is American; hence we might be witnessing the decline of the Republic the Founding Fathers gave us. This is the danger that the right poses to us.
What are some of the steps we can all take? First off read the Founding Fathers and understand them. Yes, reading the Federalist, Common Sense and the Declaration of Independence is a good idea. Read widely on what makes us great. Read the writings of great Americans such as Teddy Roosevelt and Mark Twain. Find what makes you proud of this country, and for me it is diversity and opportunity. That is what makes this country great.
Those in the right who claim to love this country should go back and study the History of this country, but they will not do that. Hence it is time to turn them off. They have a voice only as long as we are willing listen. I am not saying muzzle them, or take away their pen. What I am saying is that you and I can show them the door by making their ideas no longer profitable. This means, turn you TV off. This means let the media know that you will NO LONGER listen to their programming. Let their sponsors know that you will turn the Television off and not buy their products and turn the AM band off as well.
Remember what these people are engaged in is in is a betrayal of American values such as respect for diversity, and the Bill of Rights, including the right of Dissent. If they do not understand something as basic as this, they did not learn anything in Civics Class, and it is too late for them to learn, but not you.
You must reject these very narrow views of what is to be an American. Their views are extremely narrow, and un-American. They are the ones pursuing a culture war, in order to remake this country into something it is not.
You must also reject the politics of Personal Destruction and a news media that feeds you soft news instead of real news. We do not care for Condit, but care for the Hart Ruthman Commission. We do not care for Lacy Peterson's murder, but for decoupling of economies from the US Dollar. In the end this will affect our life, but Conditt's life or the murder of Lacy Peterson will not.
It is time to turn these men and women, who have betrayed the basic values of America off. It is time to return to what makes us great. If the popular culture will not give us this, then we might need to search for it in our past. It is rich and just wafting for you to go search for it. Embrace history, for history will save us from those who wish to destroy us. In this Bennett is correct, but only insofar as history is valuable in our search of heritage. The rest of his message is as anti intellectual and un American as the rest of them.
::: posted by nadin at 11:55 AM
Tuesday, April 22, 2003 :::
A More Gentle Age
The country is entering another Presidential Cycle. It seems that the character assassination of the Republican Machine is sharpening the knives. If past experience is any guide, we can expect yet another mudslinging campaign where nothing will be sacred. Is this helpful in choosing the Chief Executive? Hardly, never mind we can expect more of the same. After all, what has been termed the Politics of Personal Destruction, chiefly practiced by the GOP, is a valid tool or so we are told. Today it seems there is no subject off limits for our pamphleteers. As we get ready for yet another political season, we can expect to hear of sins and perceived sins that would make our forefathers blush.
What if we all agreed that there is a need for the country to return to values where the Private Sphere remained private? What would happen if we respected the privacy of candidates? Since most people are no longer familiar with US History let’s use the current magnifying glass and shine a light on three candidates.
Our first candidate to suffer from our current rage is Thomas Jefferson. Candidate Jefferson is unfit to serve as President since he has delved in the Slave Quarter and rumor has it, even has a bastard son. This makes the man unfit for the office of President of the United States. This nation cannot afford to be led by a man who cannot control the basest of impulses. Moreover he has proven to be disloyal to his wife, Abigail Adams. The horror of these actions truly put his loyalty to the country and his fitness to lead in question. Moreover he is a damn liberal and effete and elitist. He is also a deep thinker, and cannot connect to the people. He is wooden in his delivery, and those long complex sentences… we really do not need a professor but a leader!
Our second candidate to be judged under this severe magnifying glass is Ulysses S Grant. Granted he was not the best President but his problem with the bottle was never an issue. Today we could expect the following ads. US Grant is a drunk and a danger to himself and others. He never met a bottle he did not like. His service to the Country during the Civil War does not justify his affection to the bottle. He should not, on those grounds, be allowed to rule over this great country. He is not fit, and should be voted down on these grounds. He is not a moral man. Why should we be led by such a lout?
Of course our third candidate was respected during his years in office. He led the country out of the depression, but the scandal… his name was Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The man was affected by many afflictions that our propaganda masters would use to great effect. What do you want to be led by a cripple! You want to be led by a man who cannot even walk by himself? He is not qualified to lead this nation of ours! He also lacks moral clarity as his estrangement from his wife proves. He is not fit, and he should be voted down on those grounds!
Here are three candidates who if they ran today would never make it through the first round. There are many reasons for this. The most important of them all, is that we care far more about what the media tells us, than the candidate in their own words. Moreover we have made the business of politics a business of destruction. We no longer care for what the candidate has to say. We only care for the dirt somebody can dig out. It is time, to use Abigail Adam’s language that we return to a strict division between the Public Sphere, and the Private Sphere. The Private Sphere must be sacrosanct, and remain private. These politics of Personal Destruction have done nothing to enhance the politics, or how we choose a President. If anything these politics have cheapened the processes and are now keeping very qualified people off the tickets. I posit that if a similar environment existed back in the days, none of these three men would have run. We would have lost the service of two great Presidents and one so-so President. On the balance, we would have lost far more as a nation than what we would have g
::: posted by nadin at 12:14 PM