- We only know about Tom Paine because Thomas Edison discovered
him in the 1920s. Edison believed he was our most important political
thinker, and it was essential that his writings and ideas be taught in
the nation's schools. It's no exaggeration that there might never have
been an American Revolution without this man's writings that had such a
profound influence on the nation's founders and masses of people he reached
through one of the few "mainstream" means of communicating of
- Paine was an unlikely man to have had such influence.
He was humbly born and raised in England, was largely self-educated and
decided to come to the colonies in 1774 after meeting Benjamin Franklin
in London who encouraged and sponsored him to do it. It was a decision
that changed the world, but who could have imagined it at the time.
- Paine only began writing two years earlier when he took
up the cause of excise (or customs) officers arguing in a pamphlet he wrote
they were unfairly paid and deserved more. When he came to the colonies
he chose the right place settling in Philadelphia where he began writing
for the Pennsylvania Magazine, later became its editor and began working
on Common Sense in 1776 that he published anonymously. It became an instant
best-seller in the colonies and in Europe, made Paine internationally famous
and was the most influential piece of writing of the Revolution. It sold
as many as 120,000 copies in a population of about four million (equivalent
to a runaway 9 million copy best seller today) and convinced many in the
colonies to seek independence from the Crown that happened shortly thereafter.
He followed up with 16 more pamphlets under the title The Crisis, or American
Crisis that were written throughout the war until it ended in April, 1783.
- Paine was profoundly and progressively radical - way
ahead of his time and what passes for "Western civilization"
and mainstream thought today. He opposed slavery, promoted republicanism,
abhored the monarchy, and in many ways was the founder of modern liberalism
that Washington and Jefferson called that "liberal experiment, the
United States of America." These were the kinds of men who founded
the nation - skeptics of the institutions of power that included the "kingly
oppressions" of monarchs, the church and the mercantilist corporatism
of that time represented by the dominant predatory giant of its day - the
British East India Company. Because of the unfair advantage it got from
the Crown (a precursor to the kind of outrageous government subsidy and
legislative help corporate giants now get), it gained a competitive edge
over colonial merchants that led to the famous Boston Tea Party in 1773
that helped spark the Revolution.
- Paine had a voice and made it heard in his writings that
were disseminated in one of the mass media instruments of that era that
consisted largely of pamphlets like his and colonial-era newspapers beginning
with the first ever published called the Boston News-Letter debuting in
April, 1704 before Paine was born and Ben Franklin's Pennsylvania Gazette
first published in 1728 that grew to have the largest circulation of the
time and was considered the best newspaper in the colonies. Paine got
mass exposure in a way that would be impossible today for his kind of writing
- to promote his radically progressive views that would make a neocon cringe
enough to see to it those kinds of ideas never saw the light of day in
today's world run by the institutions of power Paine and the founders abhorred.
- Think about it. This was a man who was an anti-neocon,
anti-militarist, and anti-neoliberal predatory corporatist progressive
thinker supporting the rights and needs of ordinary people. He developed
a seminal compendium of liberal thinking against those notions of governance
in his book The Rights of Man. He believed neither governments or corporations
should have rights, only people. He thought inherited wealth would be
exploited by those having it and would be used to corrupt governments and
allow their heirs the ability to create dynasties that would result in
a new feudalism. He promoted progressive taxation believing everyone should
pay them acccording to their income. He supported enlightened anti-poverty
social programs to provide food and housing assistance for the poor and
retirement pensions for the elderly. He felt the best way to build a strong
democracy was to provide financial aid to help young families raise their
children. He was a strong anti-militarist and wanted all nations to reduce
their armaments by 90% to ensure world peace.
- He and the founders also wanted the new nation to have
a middle class and understood no democracy can survive without one. These
enlightened thinkers knew a viable middle class depends on a public that's
educated, secure and well-informed and that the greatest danger to its
survival is an empowered economic aristocracy that would polarize society
and destroy the very democracy they were trying to create, imperfect as
- Imagine if those "radical" ideas were spread
in today's mass media that sees to it the public never hears that kind
of thinking. They did in Paine's day, and it led to a Revolution that
freed us from monarchal rule and inspired the founders to create a great
democratic experiment in America never tried before in the West outside
Athens in ancient Greece that only lasted a few decades. From it we got
a Constitution, Bill of Rights and a system of governance Lincoln said
"was conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all
men are created equal (in a) government of the people, by the people, (and)
for the people."
- That could never happen today with the channels of communication
Paine used to electrify and inspire a nation closed off to prevent their
use against the kind of oppressive authority Paine opposed. It caused
the founders' great democratic experiment to be lost because people no
longer know how much the dominant political class is harming them by serving
the interests of wealth and power and getting plenty of it for themselves
in the process.
- If Paine were here now, he'd lead the struggle against
that kind of system the way he did in his day, but he'd get little space
in the mainstream to help and would have to settle for smaller audiences
available through the alternative ways to reach the public now. The free
press of Paine's day is now open only to the interests of capital who can
afford to own one. And those espousing "radical" views like
Paine's are barred from being a part of it.
- What the Founders Created, the Dominant Corporate-Controlled
Mass Media Thought-Control Police Destroyed
- In his seminal work Taking the Risk Out of Democracy,
Alex Carey wrote "The twentieth century has been characterized by
three developments of great political importance: the growth of democracy,
the growth of corporate power, and the growth of corporate propaganda as
a means of protecting corporate power against democracy." Doing it
was what 1920s intellectual writer and dean of his day's journalists Walter
Lippmann referred to as the "manufacture of (public) consent"
in a democratic system where it can't be done by force. Manufacturing
Consent was the title used by Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman for their
landmark 1988 book that was dedicated to the memory, spirit and work of
Alex Carey. It explained how the dominant major media use a "propaganda
model" to program the public mind to go along with whatever agenda
serves the interests of wealth and power even when it's against the welfare
of ordinary people which it nearly always is.
- Today in the US, the major media are nothing short of
a national thought-control police. They're owned or controlled by dominant
large corporations (the kind Noam Chomsky calls "private tyrannies")
grown increasingly concentrated over time and having a stranglehold over
the kinds of information reaching the public. It's given them and the
interests they represent the power to destroy the free marketplace of ideas
essential to a healthy democracy now on life support in large measure because
of how effective they are.
- Ben Bagdikian documented their progression in the various
editions of his important book, The Media Monopoly, most recently updated
in 2004 called The New Media Monopoly. He showed since 1983, the number
of corporations controlling most newspapers, magazines, book publishers,
movie studios, and electronic media have shrunk from 50 to five "global-dimension
firms, operating with many of the characteristics of a cartel" - Time-Warner,
Disney, News Corporation, Viacom and Germany-based Bertelsmann. Maybe
it should now be a big six after Comcast Corporation acquired AT&T
Broadband in 2001, expanded its cable and other holdings further since,
and is now the nation's largest cable operator reaching over 23 million
- These giants have a stranglehold over the dominant medium
most people rely on mainly for what passes for news, information and entertainment:
the national communication drug of choice - television, that according
to Nielson Media Research the average person in the US watches about 4.5
hours daily in the 99% of American households television reaches according
to US Census data and the 82% of households with cable or satellite TV
access according to government and JD Power and Associates figures.
- They don't get much in return for the time spent even
back when innovative early television comedian Ernie Kovacs commented on
the quality of offerings in his day. He said he knew why it's called a
medium - "because it's neither rare nor well done," and noted
media critic George Gerbner harshly critized the dangers of media concentration
in the hands of corporate giants and the adverse effects of its programming.
He once said they have "nothing to tell and everything to sell,"
and they subordinate their mandate to communicate responsibly to their
core function of profit-making.
- And reflecting broadly on the corrupting and dumbing-down
power of the US corporate media, noted British journalist Robert Fisk once
remarked "you really have a problem in this country." Uruguayan
author and historian Eduardo Galeano cites a large part of the problem
saying: "I am astonished....by the ignorance of the (US) population,
which knows almost nothing about....the world. It's quite blind and deaf
to anything....outside the frontiers of the US." They know little
inside it as well, and of course, that's the whole idea to maintaining
control. Misinform, distract, and control all ideas and thoughts reaching
the public - it's the key to "keeping the rabble in line." If
done well, it works better than all the might of the most powerful nation
- The Ugly Record of "The Newspaper of Record"
- Nowhere is the problem of the dominant media more apparent
and acute than in what passes for news, information and punditry on broadcast
and cable television where the programming presented is poor enough to
give pulp fiction a worse name than it already has. But special condemnation
is reserved for the so-called "newspaper of record" reporting
"All the News That's Fit to Print," at least by its standards
that are disturbing when understood in the terms of what this publication's
primary mission is - to serve as the lead instrument of state propaganda
making it the closest thing we have in the country to an official ministry
of information and propaganda.
- The "Gray Lady," as it's called ("Shady
Lady" would be more apt), has been around since it was founded in
1851 as a "conservative" counterpart to Horace Greeley's liberal
New York Tribune by Republican Speaker of the New York State Assembly,
Henry J. Raymond and former banker George Jones. It was then taken over
by Adolph Ochs in 1896 who became its publisher until Arthur Sulzberger
assumed the reigns in 1935. His heirs have maintained it since with Arthur,
Jr. now the publisher as well as chairman of the whole company that's publicly
traded on the New York Stock Exchange and that over the years became a
media empire of nearly two dozen other newspapers, nine local TV stations,
a piece of the Boston Red Sox and other enterprises and 2005 revenue of
$3.4 billion - a long way from its humble beginning when its debut simply
said: "....we intend to (publish) every morning (except Sundays) for
an indefinite number of years to come."
- The NYT is a pillar of the corporate media and a member
of the "corporate America" community whose tenets it finds no
fault with when they harm the common good, as it nearly always does. Nor
is it bothered by its own hypocrisy claiming to be a voice of moderation
or liberal thought when, in fact, it's just the opposite on issues that
matter most - like war and peace and the highest crimes of elected officials
it ignores, especially when committed by Republicans (once publishing the
Pentagon Papers notwithstanding).
- The Times plays a crucial role as a loyal servant of
empire and its business establishment. No other member of the corporate
media has such influence or reach as its message goes out to the world
and is picked up throughout it in its highest places. Its front page is
what media critic Norman Solomon calls "the most valuable square inches
of media real estate in the USA" - more accurately, in the world.
Bluntly put, the New York Times has unmatched media clout, and it uses
it shamelessly in service to the interests and ideology of its advertisers.
It also plays the lead role as an agent of disseminating state propaganda
and is able to have it resonate throughout the corporate media, including
on television where it counts most, that generally jump on key stories
featured on its front pages and in the columns of its leading journalists
of which it has many and who show up often in on-air interviews to echo
what they write.
- The Times also has a bad habit of being disingenuous
and allowed to get away with it. While claiming to maintain a firewall
between its business and journalism sides and between its news reporting
and editorial functions, it does nothing of the sort. In that respect,
it's no different than most all other members of the corporate media club.
All professionals who work there march in lock step with the ideology
of management with barely any more than a little wiggle room allowed on
the major issues affecting business or state policy.
- There's a clear line of authority coming down from the
top of the Times hierarchy dictating everything, especially what's printed
on its pages. Any Times writer diverging from this with the temerity to
tell a version of the truth the paper wants suppressed will end up in the
Siberia of obit writing or such if they're still even allowed to draw a
pay check. There's an unposted sign on the front of the Times building
(and throughout the corporate media) all who work there understand and
obey - All those entering here give up the right to think and write freely
and will henceforth follow management's unwritten and unspoken directives
or go find another line of work.
- Serving as chief empire-propagandist is an old Times
tradition going back decades and best remembered during the prime years
of James "Scotty" Reston - its best and most famous journalist
who walked easily in the halls of power and was consulted by its denizens.
That, of course, is the problem as cavorting with those in power throws
any objectivity about them out the window and makes it easy for those having
it to get away with almost anything and not have to worry about the dominant
media holding them to account.
- The Judith Miller saga is a prime example but just the
latest incarnation at least up to the time her antics got her in trouble,
and she ended up being canned. Judith had lots of predecessors whose names
people forget (Claire Sterling being one during the Reagan years), but
they served most prominently throughout the cold war years especially when
the Times was, and still is, a devout advocate of the home country's notion
of "free market" capitalism (of the predatory kind), a flag-waving
supporter of its imperial wars of conquest, and a committed enemy of the
"evil empire" until it ended and any other country not willing
to play by US-imposed rules - Iran under Mossadegh, Guatemala under Arbenz,
Cuba under Castro, Chile under Allende, Nicaragua under the Sandinistas
and Ortega (now reincarnated), Venezuela under Hugo Chavez, and Bolivia
under Morales among others soon to include Ecuador under Rafael Correa
when he takes office as the country's populist president in January. The
paper also works closely with the CIA going back to when Allen Dulles ran
it under Eisenhower with some of its supposedly independent foreign correspondents
in the agency's employ or engaged with it.
- The Times, of course, played the lead media role in taking
the nation to war after the 9/11 tragedy that got Judith Miller sacked
once her lying for the state was exposed. For many months leading to the
March, 2003 Iraq assault and invasion, the NYT's front pages screamed with
daily disingenuous reports about the so-called WMDs "the newspaper
of record" knew didn't exist because years earlier it reported the
- In August, 1995, Hussein Kamel, Saddam's trusted son-in-law
and head of Iraq's weapons industries, defected to the West and took with
him crates of secret documents on the country's weapons programs including
its so-called WMDs that included no nuclear ones. He was debriefed by
US intelligence agencies and the UN, told all, and made headlines around
the world including on the front pages of the NYT. It all went down the
"memory hole" in the run-up to March, 2003 with the false and
misleading reporting in the Times led by Judith Miller's reports who was
practically deified for her writing that all turned out to be lies.
- Now Judith is gone, but her style of reporting remains
the way things are done on the NYT's pages, especially the front one.
After playing the lead cheerleading role taking the nation to war based
on falsely reported threats, the Times is at it again. Back in 2003 and
earlier, the primary reason for war was the claim Saddam had developed
WMDs and was a threat to use them. The paper then trumpeted top administration
(unproved) charges that US intelligence had evidence Saddam stockpiled
chemical and biological weapons, was concealing them, and was seeking nuclear
ones - all untrue.
- Now with the ruse exposed, the Times is trying to rewrite
history claiming in September "the possibility that Saddam Hussein
might develop 'weapons of mass destruction' and pass them to terrorists
was the prime reason Mr. Bush gave in 2003 for ordering the invasion of
Iraq." Clear evidence he had them pre-war is now only a "possibility"
according to Times-think. This kind of revisionism is standard practice
at the NYT and a prime example of the "the newspaper of record's"
disservice to its readers wanting the truth. That's impossible to get
on the pages of the New York Times.
- The Times is also a loyal supporter of all things business
and the elitist community whose interests nearly always conflict with the
public welfare the paper falsely wants its readers to think it supports.
It doesn't, and it shows up on its pages all the time. It was clear from
its contempt for working people with its staunch support for NAFTA that's
caused the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs in the three countries
signed on to it including so many higher paying ones in the US.
- Earlier it was late or tepid on major stories like the
Savings and Loan scandal in the 1980s caused by excess banking deregulation
and concessions to Wall Street, the Bank of Credit and Commerce International
(BCCI) "$20 billion-plus heist" it pulled off unnoticed until
it messed up and got caught, and since March, 2003 its failure to report
on the misuse of many billions of taxpayer dollars companies like Halliburton
and Bechtel profited hugely from in Iraq and Afghanistan improperly and
still do despite Bechtel having gone off to new predatory ventures. And
that's besides the many billions more in the grand theft pulled off by
the defense establishment in its collusion with the Pentagon in the business
of waging war that's so profitable for the legions of weapons makers and
their suppliers for the blood money they get from it - from us through
our misspent or stolen tax dollars.
- The Preeminent Newspaper Dedicated to the Interests of
Business and Industry - The Wall Street Journal
- The Wall Street Journal began publishing in 1889 seven
years after its parent Dow Jones & Company was founded in 1882 by Charles
Dow, Edward Jones and Charles Bergstresser whose name never became prominent
maybe because it wasn't as catchy as the other two. For many years, the
Journal had the largest newspaper circulation in the country until the
forgettable USA Today overtook it. What USA Today didn't overtake was
this paper's influence that reaches virtually all those holding positions
of power and prominence in business and government and many beyond. It's
news pages also put out the kind of information its high-powered readers
need to know and is usually out in front breaking stories regarding happenings
in business and industry providing enough context to explain it well.
- It's quite another story on the Journal's editorial page
where hard right opinion ideology nearly always trumps any attempt to stick
to the facts, but it's red meat for its adherents. The paper states its
editorial philosophy up front as favoring "free markets" and
"free people" that comes down to supporting all things good for
the corporate community and all state policy doing the same, including
waging wars of aggression when they're good for business as they always
are as long as they go as planned, and even if they don't up to the point
where policy followed looks to have more of a future profit downside than
the bottom line benefits of the moment.
- Journal editorial writers also take a particularly belligerent
stance against foreign leaders following an independent course, forgetting
"who's boss," and being unwilling to serve our interests ahead
of those of their own people. Case in point, and any of several stand
out prominently - Iran, Syria, North Korea and Venezuela under Hugo Chavez
who on December 3 won a landslide reelection victory (greater than any
in US history after 1820 when elections here became partisan contests regularly)
under a model democratic process lauded by hundreds of independent observers
from around the world (including the Carter Center in the US) and shaming
the way elections are run in this country that reek with taint and fraud.
- But here's what editorial writer Mary Anastasia O'Grady
(whom this writer has clashed with before) had to say about it in her post-election
December 8 article titled "The Best Election Money Could Buy,"
a clear example of yellow journalism and disinformation dripping with the
kind of vitriol and venom O'Grady excels in. She claims "Chavez supporters
had more than once shot and killed unarmed civilians with impunity,"
but doesn't mention a shred of evidence to prove it because there is none
and it never happened. She speaks of Chavez's "feared National Guard
pour(ing) out of a military vehicle....and armies of informal government
enforcers known as chavistas (this writer is proudly one as it means someone
supporting Hugo Chavez and his enlightened democratic and social policies)"
on another side of a street. She refers to their presence as "lawlessness"
ignoring the fact that the military was there in case of disorder, (there
was none) and the chavistas were massed on the streets in a post-election
joyous celebration unlike anything ever seen in the US. O'Grady likely
couldn't understand the people of Venezuela love their president and went
to the streets to show it.
- O'Grady continued saying she "never believed Fidel
Castro's 'mini-me' would be defeated....even though there is scant evidence
that a majority of Venezuelans back his socialist revolution." Did
this woman just arrive from another planet? The independent pre-election
polls gave Chavez an insurmountable 30 point edge, and the final results
independently judged free, fair and open gave him a smashing nearly two
to one victory over his only serious opponent representing the interests
of wealth and power the great majority of people in the country rejects
that shows a clear endorsement of Chavez's Revolution.
- Nonetheless, O'Grady wasn't deterred claiming (with no
evidence, of course) "a Chavez victory could (only) be had 'legally'
through a combination of coercion, manipulation and the liberal use of
state funds" - again editorial bombast that's totally unfounded. O'Grady
says nothing about opposition candidate Manuel Rosales, chosen in Washington,
getting millions of US-funded covert dollar support, something that never
would be tolerated here by a foreign government in a US election or a foreign
corporation. She cites the "independent electoral watchdog group
known as Sumate" for another phony complaint, again failing to disclose
this organization was formed in 2002, is funded by the Bush administration
to subvert the democratic process in Venezuela, and was involved in the
signature collection process in the run-up to the failed recall election
in 2004 trying to unseat Hugo Chavez.
- The rest of O'Grady's piece drips with the same kind
of agitprop disinformation only a hard right ideologue, like this woman
whose background is from Wall Street, would love. The fact that what she
writes has no bearing on the truth is of no consequence to her or the other
writers on the Journal's editorial page. Their job isn't to tell it. It's
to serve the interests of wealth and power, and the only way to do that
well is to make sure readers never know how harmful those interests are
to the great majority of people everywhere including a fair number of them
who read the Wall Street Journal, but for their own sake should stay away
from its editorial page and its shameless servants of empire like O'Grady.
- The Tainted Record in Public "Non-Commercial"
- Today in the mainstream there are no safe havens. All
major print publications are corporate owned or controlled as are the on-air
media including the two main supposed "non-commercial" alternatives
established as independent, non-governmental, commercial-free public spaces
now as much under the control of the interests of wealth and power as the
media giants. Today so-called National Public Radio (NPR) and Public Broadcasting
(PBS) are beholden to the interests of capital because that's where so
much of their funding comes from.
- The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) was founded by
the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 to provide a programming diversity
alternative to the commercial broadcasters, began operating in October,
1970 and was required to follow a "strict adherence to objectivity
and balance in all programs or series of programs of a controversial nature."
At the time, it was stipulated the federal government was prohibited from
influencing its programming content, but that was controversial from the
start as PBS operated with federal funding making it a target whenever
it took on an issue critical of the mouth that was feeding it.
- Today corporate donors make up a substantial proportion
of PBS funding and with it claim and get the right to decide what programming
is run and what it may contain along with Republican allies in the administration
and Congress who have plenty to say and put their man, Kenneth Tomlinson,
in charge of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to see they got it
when George Bush appointed him as chairman of the CPB for a two-year term
beginning in September, 2003 after he was earlier appointed to its board
by Bill Clinton and confirmed in September, 2000.
- This was a clear case of putting the fox in charge of
the hen house forcing even the administration-friendly New York Times to
report a front-page story in May, 2005 that evidence was mounting that
Tomlinson pressured PBS officials to produce more conservative programming
and purge shows considered more liberal. It prompted an unnamed senior
FCC official to tell the Washington Post the CPB chairman "is engaged
in a systematic effort not just to sanitize the truth, but to impose a
right wing agenda on PBS....almost like a right wing coup." In other
words, to make sure the ideology in PBS programming was no different than
the way the commercial giants see things.
- This should have come as no surprise with someone like
Tomlinson in charge. He had a conflict of interest based on his prior
employment where he was director of US propaganda for Voice of America
(VOA) from 1982 - 84, was then appointed to the Broadcasting Board of Governors
(BBG), served as its chairman and in that capacity oversaw most government
propaganda broadcasts to foreign countries including by VOA, Radio Free
Europe, the Arab language Alhurra and Radio Marti beamed into Cuba that
combined reaches 100 million people worldwide.
- He was also ethically tainted at the time according to
a State Department inspector general report for having "used his office
to run a horse-racing operation and had improperly put a friend on the
payroll" and without board approval signed off on $245,000 of invoices
for questionable purposes. He never should have been put on the CPB board
or gotten the top job there and now no longer does after being forced to
resign in November, 2005 for trying to politicize the agency with his hard
line tactics and unethical practices - something that's become standard
practice on Capitol Hill under Republican control.
- Sadly, things haven't improved as one Republican ideologue
replaced another with the Bush appointment of Cheryl Halpern to be CPB
chairperson. And on November 14, 2006, the Tomlinson record was no obstacle
preventing George Bush from renominating him as chairman of the BBG for
a term to run until August 13, 2007 despite his nomination having been
stalled in the Senate because of allegations of misconduct. So far, no
charges have been brought against Mr. Tomlinson, and it's doubtful they
will be when the 110th Democrat-controlled Congress takes over in January.
On Capitol Hill, the climate and culture of corruption is bipartisan,
long-standing, and it doesn't take long for the new party in power to engage
in the same kinds of unethical practices that drove out the former one.
It just takes a while for them to get caught at it.
- The situation is no better at National Public Radio (NPR)
that long ago abandoned the public trust it was sworn to uphold when it
was founded in 1970 as in independent, private, non-profit member organization
of public radio stations in the country. It's as tainted and corrupted
as its television counterpart and now also gets a substantial proportion
of its funding from corporate donors demanding influence, like the kind
a $225 million behest can buy. That's the amount gotten from the estate
of the late Joan Kroc, widow of Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald's Corporation
that never needs to worry about an unfriendly report on NPR's airwaves
no matter how egregious its behavior, and there's plenty of it to reveal
that stays suppressed in all the major media including on NPR, the "peoples'
- Despite its mandate to be unbiased and serve the public
interest, NPR steers clear of that in its one-sided kind of "journalism."
It's careful to shy away from all controversial topics that may be sensitive
to corporate interests that include those providing it funding support
or might wish to like Archer Daniels Midland, Monsanto and Walmart that
already do. It's also "respectful" of whichever party is in
power with Republican administrations getting special deference as they
were from 1994 until the Democrats took control of the Congress in the
November, 2006 mid-term elections. Even George Bush's most extreme transgressions
can't get NPR's ire up enough to report accurately on them.
- That's made even clearer when it's known what kind of
man it has in charge - current president and CEO Kevin Klose. Like the
CPB during the Tomlinson tenure, so too is NPR run by a man who used to
be the director of all major worldwide US government propaganda dissemination
broadcast media including VOA, Radio Liberty, Radio Free Europe, Radio
Free Asia, Worldnet Television and the anti-Castro Radio/TV Marti. And
like Tomlinson, it made him an ideal choice for a comparable job at NPR,
the "peoples' radio," that like the "peoples' television"
and its flagship Lehrer News Hour, never met a US-instigated war it didn't
love, support and report endless supportive propaganda about while suppressing
all news unfriendly to the US empire and its business interests.
- So far as its known, however, Mr. Klose hasn't been accused
of the kinds of activities attributed to his former CPB counterpart, staying
free from the taint that forced Mr. Tomlinson to resign. That aside, it's
had no positive impact on NPR's programming that's just as committed as
PBS to serving the interests of wealth and power feeding it while ignoring
the public trust despite the considerable funding it gets from that source
from frequent on-air fund-raising efforts it has no right or justification
- The Passing of Two Noted War Criminals - A Brief Study
- The passing of two noted figures now making daily headlines
is one illustration of how corrupted the dominant US media is in their
reporting of news and information only exceeded by the crimes of state
and predations of corporate giants they conceal and distort because they're
one of the serial offenders and must portray the illusion of a free society
guaranteeing liberty and justice for all when, in fact, only those of privilege
get those rights.
- So on December 31 the New York Times reported "Thousands
Honor (former president Gerald) Ford (who died on December 26 at age 93
lying in state) Under (the) Capitol Dome." We can read effusive eulogies
extolling the common man who "didn't ask to be president....he didn't
have an agenda....He was a good man, an honorable man....(and) We owe him
a debt of gratitude....He was....a decent man....called on at the right
time to serve the country when we needed it most."
- Baloney, and so much for illusions. Now a dose of hard
reality about a man who rightfully should be condemned and not praised
for his time in office and only less than others preceding and following
him because his short two and one-half year tenure caused less harm that
was still a considerable amount.
- In one sense, Gerald Ford was an interregnum president
given the job to calm the public's collective ire and angst from years
of abuse of the public trust under Richard Nixon including the horrors
of aggressive war in Vietnam he allowed to go on and secretly expanded
for a time while falsely committing to end it honorably. No war begun
dishonorably can ever end with honor, and Gerald Ford never even tried
doing it. All he could do was accept defeat and cut and run leaving behind
a legacy of Southeast Asia poisoned by illegal toxic chemicals and turned
to wasteland with several million dead he never even apologized for. Imperial
powers never confess sorrow. It might be taken for a sign of weakness
or upset future plans to do it again as Iraqis and Afghans can testify
- Ford was also falsely portrayed in the media as "Mr.
Nice Guy" hiding the fact he was just another privileged white American
male elected to Congress, spent a quarter century there and ended up as
the nation's first unelected president (although legally, unlike the current
incumbent) replacing the man forced to exit the job in disgrace to avoid
being thrown out of it in even greater humiliation.
- Little or nothing good can be said about Gerald Ford
whose assignment was to calm the nation's collective nerves with lots of
disingenuous corporate PR and media makeover help. His tenure was marked
by a distinct lack of vision or any courage and conviction to move in a
new direction and away from a tainted past he was part of that was never
acknowledged in the media to conceal his time in the Congress supportive
of two major Southeast Asian wars of aggression causing massive death and
destruction unreported and all the other crimes of state committed during
his years in public office he might have stood against but never did.
- Consider further who served under Gerald Ford that explains
much about what his administration stood for: his Secretary of State was
Henry Kissinger, George HW Bush was CIA Director, Donald Rumsfeld the Secretary
of Defense, his White House Chief of Staff was Richard Cheney, and his
council of economic advisors chairman was Alan Greenspan in training to
move to the banking cartel owned and controlled Federal Reserve where he
continued for 18 years betraying the public trust to enrich the financial
community he served. With that kind of team surrounding him, what possible
good could have come from Ford's tenure. None did, but you'd never know
it hearing the kind of undeserved effusive praise pouring out of the mouths
of everyone allowed air time on the major media while suppressing all the
negatives deserving condemnation unaired and unspoken in the flow of disingenuous
legacy-building of the man, his life and presidency. In the land of media-created
illusion, could anyone have expected otherwise.
- Gerald Ford revealed was a man who as appointed vice-president
let himself fall under the spell of general and future Reagan Secretary
of State Alexander Haig who cut him a deal to become president in return
for committing the unforgivable act (some rightfully call a crime) of pardoning
Richard Nixon saving him from having to be held to account for his crimes
in office. He also gave Henry Kissinger authority to allow Indonesia's
president Suharto the right to commit genocide against the defenseless
people of East Timor killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people only
wanting their freedom from imperial aggression and their right to live
peacefully in their own land. Earlier he was an important figure as one
of the seven Warren Commission members chosen to conceal the real cause
of John Kennedy's death in 1963 unrevealed, of course, to this day. Save
your praise and tears for this man now departed. He deserves none of either.
- Neither does the other fallen leader whose fate was the
hangman's rope that may have been warranted but not by the process that
got it to his neck or the illegal authority claiming power to put it there
to have him hang from it until dead. Few will mourn Saddam Hussein but
even despots deserve a better fate, as do all people, but won't ever get
it when the law judging them is what the US hegemon says it is - nearly
always violating international statutes and norms that was clearly true
in how justice was denied Saddam.
- But that wasn't the way the Wall Street Journal's January
2 editorial page portrayed it with their lead opinion commentary titled:
Justice for a Tyrant. It ended contemptibly claiming "3,000 Americans
(gave) their lives in (a) noble mission (ridding) the world of a man who
might have killed hundreds of thousands more." The only truth in
the editorial was the statement that "Too few of the world's mass
killers face such a reckoning," but the Journal writer failed to mention
where the worst of the lot are now domiciled.
- The fallen Iraqi leader had the misfortune not to have
been from that favored home country of the WSJ and thus was subjected to
its victor's justice that guarantees none at all to its victims. He was
captured and brought to trial by the US occupier's illegally constituted
court (giving kangaroos a bad name), called the Supreme Iraqi Criminal
(Hanging Court) Tribunal (SICT) that had no authority under international
law to conduct the proceeding. The whole process was a funded and scripted
in Washington sham with a known guilty as charged verdict in advance, no
due process allowed, and a videotaped trip to the gallows disgracefully
played out round the world on national television stopping only short of
viewing the trap door sprung but leaving little to the imagination.
- Not a word was heard in the dominant US media about top
Bush administration officials and earlier ones who not only conspired,
supported and funded Saddam at his worst, but their crimes overall, then
and now, far exceed anything the Iraqi leader was forced to pay for in
a disgraceful drawn out public spectacle trial and execution played out
for full political advantage amounting to none at all and likely was botched
by the stupidity and audaciousness of doing it during the time of the Hajj,
or sacred pilgrimage, to Mecca and on Eid al-Adha, or feast of the sacrifice
- the holiest day of the Muslim year. In a final irony at this deplorable
moment, awaiting his imminent inglorious death amid disgraceful taunts
by his hangmen, the world saw an image of this brutish man, reciting verses
from the Koran, as the most dignified man at his own execution.
- Saddam killed many thousands of his countrymen and women
and deserved to be held to full account for them lawfully. But the only
law afforded him was that of victor's justice also guaranteeing crimes
far greater than his went down the "memory hole" as though they
never happened allowing those guilty to be shamelessly lauded as heros
played off in sort of point-counterpoint fashion in the case of the two
most recent fallen war criminals neither of whom got the justice they deserved.
- Video News Releases (VNRs) - Fake News Masquerading As
the Real Thing
- VNRs are fake news reports allowing corporate-sponsored
pre-packaged propaganda to be aired on television masquerading as real
news without the public knowing it's being deceived. They're produced
by corporate PR firms for their clients and are widely distributed and
accepted by TV stations that get to fill air time without the cost involved
to produce their own material. It's a win-win-win situation for VNR producer,
the corporations getting free airing of their messages and the media outlets
getting free material with the cost saving going right to their bottom
line. The only loser is the public getting conned and not knowing it.
VNRs also have their ANR (audio news releases) counterpart distributed
to radio stations making them part of the scheme to defraud the public
as well and pocketing profits from doing it.
- Also in on the con is our own government producing its
own pre-packaged fake news getting widespread airing on TV and radio to
go along with all the media-produced material out in front in their shameless
cheerleading for whatever agenda the administration in power is pursuing
and needs to lull the public into believing it's for the common good which
it never is. The Bush administration has been aggressive in the use of
phony "ready-to-serve" news reports at times blanketing the airwaves
with them from 20 or more federal agencies selling everything from war
by the Department of Defense, supposed "benefits" of big media
by the FCC, and the Healthy Forests Initiative (HFI) by the Interior Department
hiding the destructive corporate clear-cutting agenda endorsed by George
- In addition, the Bush White House put journalists on
the federal payroll to write positive news stories on a range of issues
like portraying the administration as "vigilant" and "compassionate"
and promoting government programs like the sham Medicare Part D prescription
drug plan that's a consumer rip-off for most seniors and a bonanza for
the big drug companies that can charge any price they want under it. Also
fraudulently promoted has been the benefits of Bush's No Child Left Behind
program for the Department of Education that's one more government-sponsored
plan to wreck public education and hand it over to private corporations
for profit starting with forcing school districts wanting to qualify for
federal funding to use corporate-subsidized and mandated tests that are
worthless and harmful to learning as they prevent schools from concentrating
- Again, it's a win situation for all the parties involved
as the federal government promotes its corporate-friendly programs, the
industries wanting them get the benefits, the PR firms and journalists
"on-the-take" are well-compensated, and the media outlets get
free material to fill their time slots. Only the public loses including
having to pay to be deceived with our own federal tax dollars and now gets
to be subjected to thousands of fake corporate and government-sponsored
news reports annually comprising an alarming percentage of what media outlets
air pretending the material is real news and information.
- The sham persists and grows, and the FCC, in charge of
the public airwaves, is part of the scheme as it's doing virtually nothing
to stop it although it's mandated to do it under the Communications Act.
In its April, 2005 Public Notice, the agency stated "whenever broadcast
stations and cable operators air VNRs, licensees and operators generally
must clearly disclose to members of their audiences the nature, source
and sponsorship of the material." It doesn't happen, the FCC doesn't
step up to do it, and the Bush administration disagrees with its agency's
stated but not followed mandate regarding its own pre-packaged propaganda
claiming these VNRs are permissible as long as they're "informational."
Left unsaid is whether or not the "information" serves the public
or some other interest or is fact or fiction. From the well-documented
record of the Bush White House, it would take a giant leap of faith to
believe whatever it puts out is anything but the latter.
- Political Propaganda to Program the Public Mind
- Australian-born Alex Carey, cited above, produced innovative
work documenting how political and corporate propaganda began and grew
more sophisticated through the years. It was first used in the US effectively
during WW I and the administration of Woodrow Wilson who was reelected
in 1916 on a platform promise of: "He Kept US Out of War." No
less disingenuous than most other politicians, Wilson began planning to
enter it in 1917 and did it by establishing the Committee on Public Information
under George Creel to orchestrate a public campaign that was able to turn
a pacifist nation into raging German-haters resulting in the Congress overwhelmingly
declaring war on Germany in April, 1917.
- The campaign so impressed the business community it recruited
Edward Bernays, who worked with Wilson and was a nephew of Sigmund Freud,
to develop its propaganda messages to shape public opinion. Bernays and
Ivy Lee pioneered the modern public relations industry and along with political
scientist Harold Lasswell and others helped develop the propaganda techniques
used so effectively today by government, the corporate media and their
- They helped develop the ways business and government
program the public mind (the ones Walter Lippmann called "the bewildered
herd") by manipulating mainstream journalism and discourse to convince
people to support their agenda even at the expense of their own well-being.
It's done the way Lasswell explained saying "More can be won by illusion
than by coercion (and) Democracy has proclaimed the dictatorship of (debate),
and the technique of dictating is named propaganda."
- Bernays added: "It is impossible to overestimate
the importance of engineering consent....(it's) the very essence of the
democratic process." He explained further in revealing detail the
way things are done now by today's master mind-manipulators: "The
conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions
of the masses is an important element in a democratic society. Those who
manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government
which is the true ruling power of the country. We are governed, our minds
are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have
never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic
society is organized."
- Thought Control by the Corporate Media in A Democracy
- Engineering consent is also the essence of its corruption
as today giant corporations control our lives, how we're governed and the
information we receive that influences how we think and act. It's the
realization of Lincoln's fear when he wrote: "I see in the near future
a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the
safety of my country....corporations have been enthroned and an era of
corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country
will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the
people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is
destroyed." He left out the part about future governments colluding
with the country's "money power" making it easier for them to
benefit at the public's expense and be able to destroy the republic in
the process as Lincoln feared.
- Lincoln wrote those words before the collusion began
post-Civil war in the first gilded age of the "robber barons"
who were pikers compared to the current crop in an era of "globalization"
and "the-anything-goes-under-the-administration-of-George Bush."
It was long before technology made mass communication possible and the
privately-owned media could gain the kind of reach and influence it now
enjoys. It was also before the Supreme Court in 1886 gave corporations
the right of personhood granting them their long sought after same constitutional
rights as people without the responsibilities, enhancing their power greatly,
and allowing them to become the dominant institution of our time with the
help of the major channels of communication they own, control and use to
- With them, they control the free flow of information
assuring it's compatible with the interests of wealth and power but that
ends up being harmful to the public welfare that gets more marginalized
as corporate dominance and influence grow. It's left democracy on life
support and allowed giant corporations, including the huge media ones,
to co-opt government at all levels and do it by keeping the public uninformed
on the most vital matters it needs to know about to keep democracy healthy
and vibrant. The media gatekeepers make sure that doesn't happen by suppressing
all the ugliness it wants concealed, falsely portraying a picture of society
in glowing terms and failing to let on its mission is to serve the interests
of capital, something these corporate giants are rich in and want a lot
- It's long past the time needed to jump-start a process
to fight back - to rebuild democracy allowed to wither and is now somewhere
between life support and the crematorium. It should start with a national
debate on the most pressing issue of our time that must be resolved before
anything else can be - real media reform, reclaiming our space and giving
the public more control of the airwaves it owns, breaking up the giants,
creating more competition and diversity in the commercial spaces, allowing
the free flow of information now denied in the mainstream, and creating
more open and expanded non-profit/non-commercial alternatives including
online where the free interchange of ideas flourishes but is endangered
as discussed below. Without all this, no democracy is possible.
- It means stanching the corroding effect of a culture
of out-of-control commercialism and the glorification of wars against threats
that don't exist and waged for conquest and profit. It means reigning
in the media giants allowed to go unchecked and helped by friendly legislation
that must be halted and reversed. It's up to those on the left and the
public en masse to get on this issue - to understand how central it is
to all others including war and peace and the health of the state, and
to realize how endangered we are by the predations of giant corporations,
including the media ones, in league with a rogue government that must be
contained to have any chance to save a republic on life support, if that.
- The challenge ahead is to halt this assault on the public
welfare and sensibility, free society and mainstream journalism from the
control of capital and a government serving it, reclaim the public airwaves
and mass communication systems and give it back to the citizenry and honest
journalists who'll work for all the people and not just those holding the
"commanding heights" of business and government. There's nothing
sacrosanct about the current media structure that's the result of decades
of big media-friendly laws, regulations and huge government subsidies all
crafted secretly by the industry without public knowledge, participation
or consent and gotten under administrations of both parties. Changing
this is a tall order, and one needing a great vision to drive it, especially
in the face of the powerful forces working against it in business and government.
They're the enemy, and only mass people-action can and must stop them.
- The Battle to Save the Last Frontier of Press Freedom
- Today another major threat looms that will move things
in the wrong direction if it succeeds. It's the battle to maintain internet
neutrality that's being debated in Congress, and will resume in the new
one in January, as part of several vital pieces of legislation that will
decide how it turns out. Included is S 2360, the Internet Nondiscrimination
Act of 2006 that prohibits blocking or modifying data in transit other
than spam and illegal content. In June, the House rejected HR 5273, the
Network Neutrality Act of 2006, that would have denied phone and cable
companies the right to price at their discretion to sell favored treatment
for content in their spaces at higher rates. It also passed HR 5252, the
Communications Opportunity, Promotion, and Enhancement (COPE) Act, that
will give these companies the freedom to choose wealthier customers by
eliminating the current requirement to serve low income ones as well.
- The COPE Act is now in the Senate, and internet neutrality
advocates are fighting to defeat it saying its passage will compromise
the internet space irrevocably by giving the cable and phone giants a monopoly
on high-speed cable internet. This will effectively deny low-income households
broadband access and allow these companies the ability to monitor and filter
content as they choose. Also under consideration is S 2917, the Internet
Freedom Preservation Act of 2006, that amends the Communications, Consumer's
Choice and Broadband Deployment Act of 2006 introducing more rigid net-neutral
standards including a ban on the blocking of lawful content and on quality-of-service
deals between network and content providers.
- The stakes on how all this turns out are enormous to
the freedom of the one remaining open public space (along with the few
remaining small independent publishers) it's crucially important to preserve
before anything more can be done to reclaim more of what rightfully belongs
to us all. Supporters of net neutrality want legislation and regulation
mandating digital democracy to keep the internet free from the corrupting
influence of corporate control working against the public interest in pursuit
of profit. They want it to mandate that phone and cable companies allow
internet service providers free access to the public space of their cable
and phone lines and to prevent these companies from being able to screen
or interrupt internet content consistent with current law. Otherwise,
these giants will become self-regulating, able to charge whatever prices
they wish and at their discretion block out whatever content they won't
allow in our public space they control for their own private interest.
- In the past 10 years, the telecom, broadcast and cable
giants have spent a fortune getting legislation passed favorable to its
interests and getting back far greater riches and media and telecommunication
concentration and control in return. They've profited hugely at the public's
expense through massive tax breaks, relaxed ownership rules and unrestricted
control of the public airwaves and broadband markets the big five giants
plus cable giant Comcast now dominate and exploit with few checks and balances
put up against them.
- The battle lines are now drawn as public advocates face
down the cable and telecom companies to preserve the last media frontier
of a free and open internet that's become a symbol and best hope to revive
a democratic society, structure and culture now in big trouble. Against
us are the corporate media predators who covet what they have no right
to have and want to deny the public what's now available to them at reasonable
and nondiscriminatory cost. If they prevail, they intend to establish
internet toll roads or premium lanes so that users wanting speed and access
have to pay extra for it. Those who won't or can't will get slower service
and be unable to access some formerly free sites without paying for them.
The idea is to give the industry another lucrative revenue stream and
do it at the public's expense. It's also another effort to control thought,
suppressing altogether what's unfriendly to state and corporate interests
and do it in a venue never intended to be exploited for commercial gain
or be restricted in its ability to remain free and open.
- This is a battle the public can't afford to lose, and
the telecom cartel will pull out all the stops to win. It'll be up to the
new 110th Congress to decide, and the outcome at this stage is very much
up for grabs. The commercial giants have outspent public interest advocates
500 - 1, but concerned citizens fought back flooding the 109th Congress
with over one million letters demanding they allow a free and open internet
information commons to remain in place. 2007 will likely be the year of
decision, and how it turns out will be a crucial marker for potential future
media reform and whether there's any chance for a democratic resurgence
and national rebirth desperately needed.
- In the spirit of Tom Paine, here's what it comes down
- Step one: save the internet as a free and open space.
Keep it out of the hands of corporate media predators wanting to profit
from it at our expense and control its content.
- Step two: address the greater issue of media reform and
change to open the major channels of communications to more competition
and public participation.
- Step three: achieve steps one and two and then take on
the biggest issue of all - saving the republic the way our Forefathers
did in creating one that over time we allowed to founder because we lost
control of our public media spaces and allowed the forces controlling them
to program our minds and thinking to accept what's best for them but against
our own self-interest and survival.
- It's never to late to act, but it's high time we realized
we'd better do it and quickly. Freedoms don't protect themselves and are
easily lost the way Edmund Burke explained saying: "The only thing
necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
Abolitionist Wendell Phillips added "Eternal vigilance is the price
- It all starts with public awareness through knowledge
that's what Thomas Jefferson meant when he said "If a nation expects
to be ignorant and free....it expects what never was and never will be....Educate
and inform the whole mass of people....They are the only sure reliance
for the preservation of our liberty....Enlighten the people....and tyranny
and oppressions....will vanish like evil spirits....Every generation needs
a new (regenerating) revolution."
- The revolution we need now begins with regaining control
of the means of mass communication to achieve an enlightened public Jefferson
spoke of. Achieving that means all else is possible.
- Dedicated to the Spirit of Tom Paine's Corner and Its
Editor Jason Miller
- This essay is dedicated to the man whose web site inspired
it. Jason Miller operates Tom Paine's Corner and states its purpose proudly
at the top of its front page - ...."a site dedicated to advancing
universal human rights, fostering social and economic justice, and supporting
the cause of all oppressed, exploited and impoverished human beings on
our earth." Visit his blog site and see how well he does it. And
remember the way to achieve Jason's noble goal, and all others who share
it with him, is to have an informed and aware electorate that's only possible
when the means of communication operate to serve the public interest unlike
the way they now do. It's hoped this article will inspire and arouse its
readers to work to make that possible.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.