Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Mainstream Media Critics Call For “Truth with Consequences”

The “Truth Emergency Movement” ( ) held its first national strategy summit in Santa Cruz, California Jan. 25-27, 2008. Over three hundred whistleblowers, investigative and citizen journalists, bloggers, and independent media providers braved stormy weather to discuss decentralized, critical, and alternative models for the creation and distribution of suppressed news.I drove from Sacramento and represented three alternative media venues that I write for: “Because People Matter,” the “OB Rag,” and the “media Left network.” The conference lasted three days. Undoubtedly, the room was filled with people like me who are sick and tired of the sensationalist pabulum and propaganda fed to us from the mainstream media.

The “Publicizing Truths with Consequences” conference defined itself as “seeking to discover in this moment of Constitutional crisis, ecological peril and widening war, ways in which top investigative journalists, whistleblowers and independent media activists can transform the way Americans perceive and defend their world.”

It won’t be easy. Critics face a highly administered system based on ignorance, fear, censorship, deeply entrenched propaganda practices, and an increasingly authoritarian institutional synthesis of the corporate world, the established media, the two party political system, and the military machine. Endless war is just one consequence. Many of the participants expressed concern that our democracy will not survive the decade. Some maintained that it is already a thing of the past.

For many Americans an issue is not real, doesn’t exist, until they see it in the newspapers or on TV. We do not really know what we know because what we know is often what is depicted in the mainstream news through a distorted lens that fails to tell us what is real. We seldom get “real news.” Because the mainstream news both defines and limits what is considered respectable political discourse, we in the alternative media have to create new critical means to interrogate the official story.

The conference had several speakers. People were asked to participate in different affinity groups. The conference featured an impressive roster of journalists, publishers and documentary filmmakers such as Academy Award-winning documentarian Barbara Trent who received an Oscar in 1992 for The Panama Deception. Other speakers included peace activist Cindy Sheehan, rebel journalist Danny Schector (founder of “the Media-Channel”), and former Congresswoman and Green Party candidate, Cynthia McKinney.
Attendees also heard a disembodied message from Dennis Kucinich who was essentially banned from the Presidential debates once the primaries started.

Below is a statement from two of the conference organizers, Professor Peter Phillips of CSU Sonoma State’s “Project Censored,” and David Kubiac , formerly of “9/11”

Truth Emergency US

By Peter Phillips and David Kubiak

Many economists now doubt that government measures can prevent a major recession given the severe slump in the housing market, the subprime mortgage crisis, growing unemployment, declining consumer spending, and record high oil prices. Even harder times for working people are undoubtedly at hand, yet mainstream corporate media continues to lavish more attention on the Super Bowl and celebrity misadventures than measures to protect Americans from grave personal economic harm. We are spun, mislead, propagandized and amused to death by our media conglomerates and as a result the US has become the best entertained and least informed society in the world.

There is a literal truth emergency in the United States, not only regarding distant wars, torture camps, and doctored intelligence, but also around issues that most intimately impact our lives at home. For example, few Americans know that there has been a thirty-five year decline in real wages for most workers in the country, while the top 10% now enjoy unparalleled wealth with strikingly low tax burdens.

George Seldes once said, “Journalism’s job is not impartial ‘balanced’ reporting. Journalism’s job is to tell the people what is really going on.” Michael Moore’s top-grossing movie Sicko is one example of telling the people what is really going on. Health care activists know that US health insurance is an extremely large and obscenely lucrative industry with the top nine companies “earning” $93 billion in profits in 2006 alone. The health-care industry represents the country’s third-largest economic sector, trailing only energy and retail among the 1,000 largest US firms.

Nevertheless, 16%of Americans still have no health insurance whatsoever and that number will not soon decline, as insurance costs continue to rise two to three times faster than inflation. The consequences are immediate and tragic. Unpaid medical bills are now the number one cause of personal bankruptcy in the country, and the Institute of Medicine estimates that nearly eighteen thousand Americans die prematurely each year because they lack coverage and access to adequate care.

US private health care services differ markedly from other industrialized countries where single payer systems provide everyone with medical care as a basic human right. Unfortunately, objective media coverage and comparisons of single-payer public health care with our current profit-driven corporate system are almost non-existent at this time. To protect their bloated bottom lines, private insurance companies and HMOs invest heavily in lobbyists and corporate-friendly political candidates that promote their “indispensable” role in any future health care reforms. Besides their insider political influence, these firms deploy massive advertising budgets to discourage media investigations of the economic interests shaping our health policies today

Tens of thousands of American engaged in various social justice issues constantly witness how corporate media marginalize, denigrate or simply ignore their concerns. Activist groups working on issues like 9/11 truth, election fraud, impeachment, war propaganda, civil liberties/torture, and many corporate-caused environmental crises have been systematically excluded from mainstream news and the national conversation leading to a genuine truth emergency in the country as a whole.

Now, however, a growing number of activists are finally saying “enough!” and joining forces to address this truth emergency by developing new journalistic systems and practices of their own. They are working to reveal the common corporate denominators behind the diverse crises we face and to develop networks of trustworthy news sources that tell the people what is really going on. These activists know we need a journalism that moves beyond forensic inquiries into particular crimes and atrocities, and exposes wider patterns of corruption, propaganda and illicit political control to rouse the nation to reject a malignant corporate status quo.

This Truth Emergency Movement held its first national strategy summit in Santa Cruz, California Jan. 25-27, 2008. Organizers gathered key media constituencies to devise coherent decentralized models for distribution of suppressed news, synergistic truth-telling, and collaborative strategies to disclose, legitimize and popularize deeper historical narratives on power and inequality in the US. In sum this truth movement is seeking to discover in this moment of Constitutional crisis, ecological peril and widening war, ways in which top investigative journalists, whistleblowers and independent media activists can transform the way Americans perceive and defend their world.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Reflections on Super Tornado Tuesday

As both the Clinton and Obama campaigns were placing their spin on the voting results of Super Tuesday, unusually strong EF-4 tornadoes were churning violently through southern states leaving over fifty people dead and hundreds of homes torn to shreds. Let’s hope that the destructive and extremely rare February storms were not an omen of turbulent times to come.

McCain appears to have clinched the Republican nomination, although many argue that his support is “soft.” Yet, for the first time in years, it appears that the American conservative movement will not pick the Republican candidate. McCain is a moderate conservative, not part of the “values crowd.” It is still unlikely that Huckabee or Romney will catch him, in spite of the lamentations from the likes of Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh that McCain is a “liberal” and needs to be “stopped.”

The support for Huckabee and Romney reflects some fragmentation in sectors of the Republican Party, splits that may be very deep. It is questionable whether McCain can unite them. However, Republican pundits claim that a Clinton candidacy would unite all elements of the party because her husband was so hated. She earned their ire by talking about the right wing conspiracy that was trying to take down her husband. A kind of sexism blaming the wife for the husband’s perceived faults and reducing her to his shadow, will likely spew from the well oiled Republican propaganda machine at Fox News.

With Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama essentially tied after Super Tuesday, it appears that the Democrats have a neck to neck race that may go down to the wire. Clinton won 8 states, including New York and California, while Obama was victorious in 13. At the end of the day the delegate count was almost even, with representatives from each camp claiming a small advantage.

There were surprises that stirred up the political winds. It appears many voters made up their minds at the last minute. Clinton won Massachusetts in spite of Kerry and Kennedy’s strong endorsements of Obama. Race and gender played a role. Clinton got support from women, Latinos, and the elderly.

Obama lost California, but made it significantly closer than pre-election polls had predicted. Obama excelled in states where caucuses determined the outcome. Obama got more support from blacks, the young, white males, and from voters with a higher income, or what some commentators referred to as “the Starbucks crowd.” The momentum seen in Obama’s campaign has been called an “insurgent campaign,” and some are predicting that he will pull ahead in the next two weeks. Supporters believe his superior oratory skills will trump the Republican’s power in the media.

There is a danger here for Democrats. Without a historic compromise at the end, the Democratic contest, the contest could implode into a bitter fight and split the Democratic party, especially if the contest is decided at the last minute by the “super delegates,” which represent 20 % of the total delegates. This means that the nomination could be decided by party insiders. Some Democrats still hope that Al Gore will step in at the last minute, but this is also highly unlikely and would create a different set of troubles.

Many have commented on the rarity of this race - a woman and a black man of mixed descent competing to the end for the top political office in the nation, and being legitimate contenders at the same time. A victory for either would be historic in its own right, a story for the history books. A joint ticket, however, is highly unlikely given the wounds that have already been opened, even though such a ticket would be a sure winner. It is hard to see either candidate accepting a subordinate VP position.

The momentum seems to be with Obama who more than doubled Clinton’s fundraising totals in January. Clinton is now loaning campaign money (5 million) from her own pocket, and this is not a good sign. Some are predicting Obama will soon receive the endorsements of Gore and Edwards to boost his chances of creating some separation..

Obama supporters claim that the Democrats have a better chance of winning because he opposed the unpopular Iraq War from the beginning, whereas Clinton showed poor judgment when she voted to give Bush the authority to invade Iraq. John Mc Cain supported it outright . Clinton eventually changed her tune when she became aware of the strong anti-war position of rank and file Democrats and most Americans. John McCain, who has never seen a war he didn’t like, has spoken of winning, even if takes a hundred year U.S. occupation of Iraq.

What happens in Iraq and the economy could very well determine who wins the Presidential contest. A Democratic victory is not assured, even though at this stage it appears likely. One certainty of Campaign 2008 is that the Democratic nominee can expect a full-scale barrage of vicious Republican attacks. You can tune in to Fox News to watch them. And don’t be surprised if the name Karl Rove pops up once again!

Whatever happens, it remains to be seen whether the Presidential victor will stop the horrid war in Iraq. We all have a responsibility to protest if they don’t.