THE MUZZLED MAJORITY
(as published in DEUTSCH MAGAZINE, Jan. 2004)
It's difficult to write about our current state of affairs in America and not be angry. Don't get me wrong, I love my country, unfortunately, I feel it's been hijacked by corporate interests who use the U.S. Military as their personal police force for capital gain.
In his farewell address to the nation in 1961, President Eisenhower warned of the dangers the Military Industrial Complex poised to democracy.
"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together."
With the fall of the Soviet Union, the Great Corporations struggled to find a new enemy, one that would justify a continued increase in Military/weapons spending. 9-11 provided that. It was the Pearl Harbor event that galvanized the American public and put us back on a solid war footing. And who was the enemy? Terrorists. Where do they reside? Everywhere! And let's start with the countries we don't like. Thus, the "9-11 banner" was unfurled and has been used by the Bush Administration to crush our civil liberties, invade 2 countries and increase military spending to an all time high.
So where was our "alert and knowledgeable citizenry?"
We, the great muzzled-majority, were led like bleating sheep into a war we didn't want by the drumbeat of the corporate owned and controlled media. It was a war that was sold to us in exciting sound bites and sexy graphics to the likes of; "Count-down Iraq", "Show-down Iraq.' It was as if the upcoming war was a new reality show, wedged between episodes of "American Idol" and "Are you Hot?," with a ratings fear-factor being driven by those all elusive Weapons-of-Mass-Destruction.
How did we as a country ever get to this point? Let's start with the 2000 election. Specifically, Florida, also known as "nepotism at it's best," or "the fix is in."
Contrary to popular belief, the 2000 election didn't rest on a mere 350 ballots with hanging and dimpled chads. The vote was subverted on a far grander level with the help of George W's brother Jeb, the Governor of Florida, a man who managed to electronically disqualify over 35,000 votes. Why wasn't this reported in the U.S. Media? Good question. It was buried by the U.S. press but reported in great detail by Greg Palast, an expatriate who lives in London, works for the BBC and went to Florida to investigate. One of the few. He documented it all quite convincingly in his book, "The Best Democracy money can buy."
Americans should have marched en-mass down to Florida, demanding recount. But they didn't. Why? Because most of us sat in our homes, numbly eyeing the droning TV, naively believing our democratic system had a series of checks and balances.
We believed the vote would be recounted. How could it not? We believed the great minds of our nation would somehow sort through the mess, get to the bottom of it and the democratic process would prevail. We were wrong. The legal battles raged for weeks. The Florida state Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Democrats, but the U.S. Supreme Court overruled them in a 5-4 decision. Thus the recounts were halted and Bush was anointed to power by a partisan Supreme Court. And Gore, in the interest of avoiding seeing the country split in two in angry protests, conceded.
The United States hasn't been the same since.
So how did we get here? One reason I believe is that for the majority of Americans, their world views are influenced almost entirely from what they're fed by the medias. Why's that? Very simple, Americans don't travel.
Some sobering facts;
Only 18% of US adults have passports. Recent research indicates that Britain is the most popular overseas destination (excluding Canada & Mexico) for US residents. The top cities for passport ownership are: New York, 38%; San Francisco, 37%; Miami/Fort Lauderdale, 33%; West Palm Beach, 31%; San Diego, 29%; Los Angeles, 27%; Washington DC, 27%.
The average American household has the television on more than seven and a half hours a day.
The average American car owner spends 1/6 of his waking hours either in transit or earning wages to support his vehicles(s). I guess we're all too busy in traffic, working to pay for our cars, dealing with adverts and watching TV. It doesn't leave much time for passport applications or travel to exotic places.
Prior to his presidency, George W.'s overseas travel experience wasn't much better. His campaign staffers claimed that Bush had taken "more than a dozen" trips outside the U.S., although they later admitted that the vague figure included "many, many" trips to Mexico and Canada.
In fairness, America isn't Europe. We're surrounded by oceans and have states the size of most European countries. It's a little more difficult to come over for a visit. The problem I see is more a matter of perception and attitude; such as we're number 1, morally right and backed by God. Hey, we won the Cold War, didn't we?
Some people may say the passport ownership statistic is on par with other countries in the world. Without a doubt, but I don't see the populations of the Congo or the Dominica Republic launching pre-emptive wars against countries they know little about because of trumped-up fear-factors.
It's vital for Americans to foster a world view outside the corporate controlled media bubble that has enveloped us like a big, soft baby's blanket. A soft seduction of warmth and entitlement.
So what do we as Americans do? How do we take the country back from corporate control? Good question. We organize and we vote. Right now, the primary way those opposed to the war and the Bush Administration's policies organize is through the internet. It's the one venue the media-beast can't control or regulate. Yet.
I remember being in NY in the days proceeding Gulf War 2. 500,000 people marched in the streets toward the U.N., all races, from all over the country. And what was the coverage on network news, two tired hippies and a shaggy old dog, loafing on some church steps.
An exaggeration but you get the point. The events were covered barely, using angles that made it appear as if they had little or no attendance. And what happens if a protester somehow manages to get near an area where Bush might actually see his dissenting banner?
On Dec. 6, 2001, Attorney General John Ashcroft informed the Senate Judiciary Committee, "To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and give ammunition to America's enemies."
Wow. Quite a mouthful. So to protest is to give ammunition to America's enemies. Therefore, as a protester, you become the enemy. Right?
When Bush travels around the United States, the Secret Service now visits the location ahead of time and orders local police to set up "free speech zones" or "protest zones" where people opposed to Bush and his policies are quarantined. These zones routinely succeed in keeping protesters out of presidential sight and outside the view of media covering the event.
Protesters are free to speak there as much as they like just as long as they can't be heard. And any protester who happens to unfurl an anti-Bush sign when the Bush motorcade is passing on his way to a photo opt, is immediately hustled away to the safety of the protest zone where he can vent his frustrations to like-minded folk. It must be fun time for those privileged, protesting few. Hard to believe?
When retired Pittsburgh steelworker Bill Neel learned that President Bush was coming to town, he decided he'd be on hand to protest Bush's economic policies or lack there-of.
Neel and his sister made a hand-lettered sign that read; "The Bush family must surely love the poor! They have made so many of us!" Sign in hand, they headed for a road where the motorcade would pass.
But Neel never got to show his sign to the President. As Neel stood among a group of carefully selected Bush supporters, he was approached by a police detective and told to move to a "free speech area" for protesters, on orders of the U.S. Secret Service. Neel recalls; "He pointed out a relatively remote baseball diamond that was enclosed in a chain-link fence. I could see these people behind the fence, with their faces up against it, and their hands on the wire. It looked more like a concentration camp than a free speech area to me. So I said, `I'm not going in there. I thought the whole country was a free-speech area.'"
After refusing to obey the order to go to the area, Neel was handcuffed and arrested on charges of disorderly conduct. When Neel's sister argued against the arrest, she too was cuffed and taken away.
Unfortunately, Neels' experience isn't unique. On Sept. 23, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in a federal court against the Secret Service, alleging that the agency, a unit of the new Homeland Security Department charged with protecting the president and other key officials, instituted a policy, in the months even before the 9-11 attacks, of instructing local police to cordon off protesters from the President and Vice-President. The suit comes at a time of mounting charges by civil libertarians on both sides that the Bush administration and Attorney-General John Ashcroft's justice department are trampling on civil liberties.
For Bush's recent visit to London, the White House demanded British police ban all protest marches, close down the city center, and impose a "three day shutdown of central London in a bid to foil disruption of the visit by anti-war protesters," according to Britain's Evening Standard.
But instead of a "free speech zone," as such areas are labeled in the U.S., the Bush administration demanded an "exclusion zone" to protect Bush from protesters' messages.
Such unprecedented restrictions didn't inhibit Bush from portraying himself as a champion of freedom during his State visit. In a speech at Whitehall, Bush hyped the "forward strategy of freedom" and declared, "We seek the advance of freedom and the peace that freedom brings."
And the free voices of America's left? Suppressed, muzzled and confined to the internet, bookstore appearances and the occasional late-night talk shows such as HBO's "Late night with Bill Maher" or "Comedy Central."
The suppression of views opposed to Bush's policies is rampant and overt. One example as to how the right broke the back on the dissent of the war is the radio industry.
"There goes the last DJ/ Who plays what he wants to play/ And says what he wants to say/ There goes your freedom of choice/ There goes the last human voice."
Tom Petty, "The Last DJ"
What Mr. Petty is speaking out against is the corporate control of the radio industry. Primarily; Clear Channel.
Clear Channel owns over 1,200 of the major radio stations in the US, 37 television stations, with investments in 240 radio stations globally, and owns and operates over 200 concert venues nationwide. They control 60% of all rock programming. They own the tours of musicians like Janet Jackson, Aerosmith, Pearl Jam, Madonna and N'Sync. With 103,000,000 listeners in the U.S. and 1,000,000,000 globally (1/6 of the world population), this powerful company has grown unchecked, using their monopoly to control the entire music industry.
The chairman and CEO of Clear Channel is L. Lowry Mays, a Texan and long-time contributor to the Republican Party and the Bush family. The other top executives are Lowry's sons Randall and Mark Mays, also big financial supporters of the Republican Party. The Mays family has ties both to the Texas oil industry and the investment banking sector, in which all three of the Mays were formerly employed.
The list of singers and acts censured by this group in the run-up to war is a long one. The most famous being the Dixie Chicks who found out the hard way that criticizing President Bush's plans for war in Iraq can cost you air play, big time. And then there was that infamous Madonna anti-war video that never saw the light of the screen because Madonna withdrew the antiwar video for her single "American Life" out of "respect for the troops fighting in Iraq." Smart move. Especially when Madonna considers that all those radio stations who play her music and all those concert venues where she preforms are all controlled by Clear Channel.
And then there's Tim Robbins and Sean Penn. The right-wing froths at the mouth anytime any actor or celebrity with an opposing view manages to get his political views on the air. The actor's opinions are usually bookended by pundits and embedded reporters who are quick to reassure an increasingly jittery public that an actor knows nothing of the complex political world we live in and therefore, why should we, as a populace, be forced to listen to any of their "liberal, Jane Fonda, commie-loving dribble."
Funny. I guess we only need to listen to actors if they're Republican, named Ronny Reagan, and co-starred with a chimp in a film called; Monkey Business. Or, there's that new Republican Governor of California, the Terminator himself, Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger. A person, who in movies at least, certainly knows how to deal with a less then gentle world.
Like the Indians of yesterday, we sleep with one eye open, we make note of what's happening while we wait for that day in November when we can again make our voices count. Then again, I'm reminded of a quote by Joseph Stalin;
"Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything."
Is there hope for a fair election?
In an effort to prevent fraud, the election committee has come up with "Black Box Voting." Electronic computer touch screens.
Computer-science researchers from around the U.S. are already warning of massive security risks and fraud potential with the new electronic voting machines made by Diebold Election Systems. A system extremely vulnerable to unscrupulous voters as well as "insiders, such as poll workers, software developers and even janitors," who could cast multiple votes without a trace," according to one study.
And where does Diebold stand politically? The Diebold corporation heavily favors the Republican Party. Since 2000, the company itself has made $170,000 in political contributions – all to the Republican National State Elections Committee.
A recent article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that the head of Diebold is also a top fund-raiser for Bush's re-election. In a recent fund-raising letter, Diebold's chief executive Walden O'Dell, said he is "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the President next year."
That's a little like letting the fox run the hen house. America moves like a sleeping giant. Slowly at first, but once it's anger is fully awake, alert and focused, it's a force to be reckoned with.
More and more, that focus is looking inward at the Bush administration and the policies it has inflicted upon us; a ballooning deficit, Bechtel, Enron, Haliburton, the "Clean Air Bill" which was really the gutting of over 12 years of environmental policies, the "Leave no child behind policy", the lies regarding WMD and the run-up to war, the non-existent Iraq/Al Quada connection, the suppression of information regarding events leading to 9-11, the Carlyle Group, the leaking of Valerie Plame's name, a CIA NOC agent, to the press in retaliation for her husband's report on Niger's uranium business, a report that didn't back-up the Administration's WMD assertions.
The list goes on. Many of these transgressions qualify as crimes. Clinton would have been impeached long ago. But not this Teflon Administration. Not when they control the House of Representatives, the Senate, the Supreme Court and the White House. The checks and balances are gone.
Using fear, they keep us off-balance and confused, injecting an easy-to-follow, color-coded level of panic into the American mind set with their syringe of choice; the corporate-run media.
Fear keeps our eyes off issues while we demand protection from an invisible foe that can be lurking at the local grammar school lunch room one moment, and Iraq's Sunni Triangle the next. Who needs a Cold War when you can have a terrorist bogeyman capable of popping up anywhere at any time.
Am I alone in my outrage? No. I'm just a part of the muzzled majority. Watching. Waiting. Saddened and embarrassed by what our government has become and how we as Americans are now perceived. Still, I cling to my optimism, hoping that the system, much like an errant Mars rover, will somehow reboot itself, phone home and start working properly again. A government by the people and for the people.
Martin Luther King said; "Only when it's darkest can you see the stars."
And until those stars appear? May the Force be with us.
For further information and a sampling of mind-altering alternative websites, visit: copvcia.com, Informationclearinghouse.info, truthout.com, globalfreepress.com, Globalresearch.ca and moveon.org.