Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Right to Remain Silent

“Democracy is the most difficult government to maintain, … everyone must have similar amounts of wealth, because economic inequality creates power differences that cannot exist in a democracy.”
—Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract
By overreacting to the Occupation, Wall Street has revealed its hand.  It maintains its power over the will of the people through an expensive strategy of: Ridicule, Undermine and Intimidate.  The billionaires who bought our government are using the American people’s money to attack the American people.  They hoard their power while perpetuating the illusion of justice and equality by cultivating a legion of liars, manipulators and attackers to do their bidding.  This class of economic Uncle Toms consists of people who are tossed larger than average crumbs from the masters’ table.  In return, they aggressively defend the interests of the rich by insisting on a fervent devotion to the status quo and by feigning horror at anything resembling a new idea.        

In a scene in Lewis Carroll’s fable of disjointed reality, Alice in Wonderland, Alice flees with the Duchess from the Red Queen awfully fond of beheadings.  As they get away, the Duchess scolds Alice for thinking.  Alice protests, “I’ve a right to think,” to which the Duchess replies, “Just about as much right as pigs have to fly.”  The same absurdity pervades current American discourse.  The mega-rich have an absolute right to flood the public with their speech to behead any policy or the candidacy of any politician opposed to them.  Now, people seeking to publicly discuss our society’s economic direction are told the only right they have is to remain silent. 

Radical Ridicule

Once the 1% decided they couldn’t safely ignore the 99% movement, they primed their legion of media shills to sling any and all names they could at the people involved.  Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol fired the first shot by claiming in an ad that OWS was anti-Semitic, so to support Occupy was to support hate.  This serious charge is demonstrably false.  The New York Times observed that there have been lots of Jews openly celebrating Judaism under the tarps at Liberty Plaza.  OWS is intentionally decentralized, so it is inevitable that some fringe-minded people will show up to their protests.  But this video predating Kristol’s ad shows what happens when someone unfurls a sign reading “Zionists Control Wall Street.”  Other Occupiers surround him and chant “Nazi go home!  No Nazis here!”  Clearly the mainstream of OWS does not tolerate anti-Semitism in its ranks.  It is also important to point out that Zionism is not the same as Judaism.  Many devout Jews are opposed to Zionism.   

The Weekly Standard is allied with the Koch brothers, the same billionaires who funded WI governor Scott Walker’s campaign to destroy public unions.  Kristol’s attack serves the interests of politically active billionaires seeking to subvert American democracy and workers’ rights. 

Rush Limbaugh claimed that the Occupiers were threatening to bomb Macy’s.  This slander is disproved by OWS’ oft-repeated commitment to nonviolence and the fact that no one associated with the protests has been arrested for anything worse than trespassing.  Rush Limbaugh shills for a number of industry lobbies, and is particularly tied in with the food and beverage lobby. This lobby has become powerful enough to field its own candidate for president in the form of Herman Cain. 

In this rambling address, professional “paranoid” “delusional” Glenn Beck stands in front of an image of Barack Obama, Van Jones, George Soros, Michael Moore, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Vladimir Putin all rotating around a Nazi swastika and a communist flag while he asks a litany of zany rhetorical questions about OWS.  This image is only on screen in the background for 15 seconds, and he doesn’t comment on it, but he implies that an international Nazi/communist plot is fueling OWS.  During WWII, more people died in a shorter time in the fighting between the Nazis and the communists on the Eastern Front than in any other battle in history.  The suggestion they would be teaming up to protest Wall Street is remarkable stupidity. 

Beck insinuates that Van Jones founded the movement.  In the latest issue of The Occupied Washington Post, Occupiers wrote an article titled, “Van Jones and Democratic Party Operatives: You Do Not Represent the Occupy Movement/ Make Your Own Program; Don’t Try to Steal Ours.”  It’s possible that Glenn is right in that Van Jones wants to lead the movement.  But OWS has unequivocally rejected all attempts by institutional liberals to co-opt the movement.  Beck’s old lefty bogeyman falls flat in the face of a decentralized popular movement. 

In this video, Beck feverishly implies OWS is in cahoots with radical Islam.  He offers no facts to support this.  He says
“we have the Marxist revolutionaries yet again, along this time with the Palestinian movement and the radical Islam movement and now we have the big progressive movement and it’s all happening.  You would think somebody would see a pattern here, but apparently not.  Apparently not.” 
Apparently not, Glenn.  Clearly, a conspiracy of communists, Nazis and anarchists isn’t enough.  Why not throw ‘radical Islam’ into the mix too?  Does he think that al Qaeda has shifted tactics from suicide bombings to drum circles?  Or is he trying to prime his viewers for the argument that Americans who criticize Wall Street should be hauled off to Guantanamo? 

In 2007, Glenn Beck was the token conservative voice on CNN subsidiary Headline News.  He argued passionately for the US to launch a war with Iran while his show was funded by and hosted ads for Lockheed Martin, the largest military contractor in the United States.  When criticized about this by a guest, he called his critic “out of your mind” and attempted to silence him. 

Glenn Beck

On Fox News, Bill O’Reilly claims that OWS is a conspiracy of professional Democratic operatives.  In the very next sentence he says that they are all jobless because they don’t want to work.  As The Young Turks’ Cenk Uygur aptly notes, O’Reilly’s two claims directly contradict each other.  O’Reilly says that with a college degree, unemployment is 4.5%.  This statistic is meaningless.  The national unemployment rate is around 9%, but if you include people who are underemployed and people not reporting unemployment because they’ve given up looking, the number may be 17% or higher.  The 2010 Census demonstrated how hard the recession has hit the 16-29 age group.  The most distressing fact facing job applicants, regardless of age, education or experience, is that there are 7 applicants for every 1 job opening in America.  

 In this segment on Fox and Friends entitled “From Mom to Mob,” Fox hosts blast a 38-year-old woman for “abandoning her family” to go to the OWS protests.  She left her teenage children with no one to look after them except for (the horror!) their father.  They smear her as a bad mother, imply that she’s cheating on her husband and tell her to take care of her kids.  This profoundly sexist diatribe against a private citizen is just one example of Fox’s brave trailblazing into new lows in commentary. 

In this video, Sean Hannity hosts Ann Coulter, who, while peddling her new book Demonic, says several times that the Occupiers are “demonic.”  Maybe no one told her that ‘demonizing’ your opponents is only a figure of speech?  She variously calls the protesters: “demonic loons,” “a demonic mob,” “brainless, brainwashed,” “losers,” “drug dealers,” “criminals,” “teenage runaways.”  She says they are not Ivy League, but are “coming from bush league schools,” and says “they don’t know why they’re there.”  Both Hannity and Coulter speculate that there is a strong potential for the protesters to become violent, again, in spite of their stated commitment to nonviolence.  Hannity says, “this is the face of the Democratic party.”  Like playground bullies, the two of them smugly call the protesters a litany of names and make no attempt to engage their arguments. 

In this video, Steve Doocy hosts Fox News ‘legal analyst’ Peter Johnson Jr.  Though you wouldn’t know it from watching the clip, Johnson is not just an ordinary corporate media shill, but also a Wall Street litigator.  His job is to help people who are very rich sue people who are not very rich.  Then he goes on cable TV to ridicule people who protest the very greed he helps make possible.  He is the epitome of the economic Uncle Tom class that enables Wall Street power.  Above a banner reading “Mayhem in Manhattan” Doocy says “the message is muddled.”  This consonance, or repetition of the “M” sound, is specifically designed to cognitively short-circuit a person’s normal skepticism toward new information.  Johnson says that OWS has “anarchist roots,” and “these folks are deluded in a lot of ways.”  He points out “they’re decrying the policies of president Obama with regard to job creation and foreclosures.”  Doocy then chimes in that it’s a “slap in the face of Obama.” 

So which is it, Fox, are the protesters demonic Democratic operatives, and the face of the party?  Or are they unemployed deluded losers, anarchists slapping Obama’s face?  Apparently they’re both, because “Fair and Balanced” doesn’t mean “True and Honest,” it means, ‘We slime our opponents with whatever mud we can find, even if it’s contradictory, doesn’t hold up to even a threadbare examination of the facts, and makes us sound schizophrenic.’  The segment ends with Doocy asking Johnson what it all means, and Johnson says, “I don’t know what it is.”  Albert Einstein once said, “The mediocre mind is incapable of understanding the man who refuses to bow blindly to conventional prejudices and chooses instead to express his opinions courageously and honestly.”

Fox News is a subsidiary of News Corporation, the second largest media corporation in the world.  News Corp. owns over 100 media assets in numerous countries, including websites, cable channels, TV stations, production companies, magazines and newspapers.  The company is embroiled in an ongoing scandal of appalling ethics violations, including hacking the phones of celebrities and terrorism victims.  The Murdoch dynasty, which owns the multinational corporation, initially argued that they didn’t know about the hacking.  Recently published emails disprove this argument.  Clearly News Corp. is an extremely powerful opinion-forming machine which does not flinch at violating laws or normal standards of decency to generate ratings. 

News Corp. is owned and run by a fascinating crew.  Australian Rupert Murdoch is the 117th richest person in the world.  He is a media tycoon with a long track record of using his bully pulpit to support pro-business and anti-regulatory politicians and policies in numerous countries.  His media empire has lent support to invasions, resource imperialism, brutal dictatorships and the repression of democracy and human rights.  He has threatened to sue critics and has promoted nepotism within his own family and the families of powerful political allies.  When the British government outlawed media graft to tamp down on anti-competitive political/media relations, many lawmakers referred to the law as “The Murdoch Clause.”  Murdoch has promoted offshore tax havens, dodged corporate taxes and exploited tax loopholes.  His media have reported the outcomes of close elections before they were officially tallied in an effort to influence the outcome, including the 2000 US presidential election. 

Other owners and high-level managers of News Corp. include:
·         John L. Thornton: a former President and Co-COO of Goldman Sachs.
·         Natalie Bancroft: a member of the powerful Bancroft dynasty, which owned Dow Jones & Company for decades. 
·         Jose Maria Aznar: the former prime minister of Spain.  He launched his career as a propagandist for the Fascist Franco government. 
·         Viet Dinh: originally from Vietnam, Dinh is a Republican legal adviser and was the primary author of the USA Patriot Act.  
·         Rod Eddington: an Australian who was the CEO of British Airways. 
·         Andrew Knight: a British media entrepreneur and current Chairman of J. Rothschild Capital Management Limited.
·         Thomas James Perkins: a founder of premier investment capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.
·         Roger Ailes: former media consultant for Presidents Nixon, Reagan and H. W. Bush and NYC Mayor Giuliani. 
·         Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal: a Saudi prince, the 26th richest man in the world and the richest Saudi.  He founded and owns the Kingdom Holding Company which holds investments in industries including “banking, real estate, telecommunications, broadcasting and media, entertainment, hospitality, computers and electronics, agriculture, restaurants, upscale fashion, retailing, supermarkets, tourism, travel and automotive manufacturing.”  He is deeply invested in Wall Street, and owns stock in major firms including Citigroup.  Some economists have observed that his publicly acknowledged income does not add up and have speculated his company may be a front for arms dealers. 

This prince is Fair and Balanced™

This list of James Bond villains the most influential players at Fox is only the tip of the iceberg, yet their combined wealth is greater than most countries.  They are deeply invested in so many business interests and hail from so many countries, it is impossible to know what their principal motivations are.  But their claim that their main concern is to inform the American public is an assault on logic.  It is all but certain that their media corporation is a Trojan horse for all kinds of corruption and conflicts of interest.  They are closely allied to the biggest banks and deeply invested in the illicit trading that blew up the economy in 2008.  Their tentacles wiggle powerfully in almost every government institution and political office in America.    

These billionaires own a legion of lying puppets who dance on strings of gold at the pleasure of Wall Street and large corporations.  The media marionettes are rewarded with prizes like lucrative lobbying deals.  In return they shill for powerful interests while framing, spinning and lying to the American people.  They will say anything to ridicule, slime, smear and demonize anyone who criticizes the policies that are enriching the wealthy and impoverishing the rest.  Their commentary is not journalism, it is not an effort to analyze, understand and explain the facts.  It is an effort to throw any mud they can find until something sticks.  Americans are beginning to publicly question the direction of our economy.  Wall Street is making sure they do so in a cloud of poison floating around anyone who asks the salient questions. 

We are used to seeing the two parties do this to each other, which is largely why they can’t get anything done.  But now the corporations and their puppets are turning their rhetorical guns on the American people themselves.  This amounts to a siege on democracy.  As the American people have begun to challenge the broken system impoverishing them, the broken system has responded by declaring war on the notion that we can insist on progress.  In this climate, we have as much right to think as pigs have to fly.  We only have the right to remain silent.

In the end, their attacks will fail.  The American people will reject the Wall Street sliming of Main Street Americans exercising their rights to free speech and peaceable assembly.  We held our hands to our hearts every morning as we grew up and pledged allegiance to the Republic where Liberty and Justice are guaranteed for all.  We took that pledge seriously.  We have come to demand a return on that pledge. 

As our message spreads, don’t be a sucker.  Accept nothing at face value.  Demand greater context.  Investigate the source.  Follow the money.  Our political culture is drowning in propaganda.  Build a life raft in your mind. 

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