Friday, December 09, 2005

Editorial: War Got Your Tongue?

Let's give it up to the bloggers and the op-ed columnists with bravery because they've weighed in the war. The war that hits the third year mark in March.

You do know there's a war going on, right?

We kind of feel like we have to ask that question because most people don't appear to. Again, give it up for the bloggers and the op-ed columnists. Give it up for progressive media.

"'Why Are You Here' and 'What's Changed'" we asked at the D.C. protests in September. Here's how one person responded:

74) Ivan, 62, Michigan: I think today is great and am thrilled with the turnout. I protested against the war on Vietnam and there it took us years to get the momentum going. What I worry about is where are the people? I don't mean the protesters, I'm really encouraged with the cross-section today. But, okay, you've got Cindy Sheehan. Great spokesperson. Ralph Nader's here and maybe he can make up for the recent past or maybe not, but he's here. The actress from Tootsie and Cape Fear, right Jessica Lange. She's here and I didn't remember her name but she really did give a great speech. I'm glad those people are here. But we need more.
And in my day, the people had others. Yes, we had Jane Fonda, Fred Gardner, Joan Baez, Tom Hayden and others front and center. But you also had people backing it up. Like Bob Dylan. I think he went to one protest with Joan Baez for civil rights. But his songs backed up what his actions didn't. Or you turned on Dick Cavett or David Frost and there was an author or singer or someone and they weren't at the protests but they'd put it on the line and they'd say, like John Phillips [Mamas and the Papas] that the war was wrong. I caught Jane Fonda on David Letterman, when her book came out. And he asked her about the war and she said she was against it and the audience just went crazy with applause and cheers. But are there younger people doing that? Is it just people my age? Maybe there are and I just don't know them. But part of the reason the movement finally did end the war is that our cultural heroes were willing to speak out. You hear a lot of that sneering "You're a celebrity, shut up" talk and that's really fearing the power if they do speak out. With Vietnam, and this isn't a full list, just names that come to mind, you had Joan Baez and Jane Fonda front and center, but you also had Phil Ochs, you had the whole Mamas & the Papas, you had John Lennon, Mia Farrow, Tim Hardin, Laura Nyro, Peter Fonda, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Joni Mitchell, Jim Morrison, Janis [Joplin], the Rolling Stones, Grace Slick and the [Jefferson] Airplane, this whole list of people. And you had people my age and younger and we weren't that different from kids today, we thought about what was in front of us. So when you have these people that you watch or listen to talking about it, it put it front and center. There were a lot of priests and a lot of Quakers and a lot of really solid activists who worked and gave their time to ending the war. But what kept it on the front page was a) real reporting with real photos and b) the fact that you couldn't escape it. You turned on the TV to escape but there was some entertainer talking about it. It was front and center. Now maybe there are people doing that today. I don't watch much TV now. Maybe if I turned on Letterman every night, I'd see some young people coming on to talk about a movie or TV show and I'd hear them speak out against the war. But I really don't get the sense that's happening.The right spent a lifetime demonizing Jane Fonda. There's a reason for that. They want to make sure no one else is tempted to use their power. They're scared of what would happen if entertainers really started throwing their weight around and making the people buying tickets or records think about this war.

Hard to believe it to look around today, but that did happen. C.I. had lunch today with a friend who's trying desperately to work the war into a show he writes for. During the conversation a number of issues were raised about what's being ignored by the mainstream press. C.I. shared the converstation with Jess who said, "I had that same conversation!" C.I. came up with the title of this editorial. Jess tossed in something else. By then it was going to have to be a Third Estate Sunday Review piece because we all wanted to weigh in.

All we are saying is JUST TAKE A STAND

On this anniversary of the assassination of John Lennon, we're surprised by how few seem to act as if a war's going on. Ripped from the headlines our asses. Hiding from the headlines. And it goes on everywhere.

Maybe pop culture doesn't allow you to comment on Harold Pinter's speech? Maybe a playwright is too "culture" and not enough pop? Maybe it's just not really handing out awards if no one asks, "Who are you wearing?"

All we are saying is just take a stand.

If you're presenting as being on the left, why are you so silent on a war that's waged for almost three years? War got your tongue?

Hey, if you're for the war, come out and say it. You can find readers who'll support you. But quit hiding behind "I'm left" if you can't comment on the war.

You're not looking "moderate." You're looking ignorant. And when people read you years from now and see that you had nothing to say about a war that waged and waged, they're going to wonder about that.

We should wonder about it right now.

Bloggers, op-ed writers, Laura Flanders, Amy Goodman, The Progressive, The Nation, go down the list. They're the people who have kept the conversation alive, who have forced it to the front. They did that without you. They're still doing it without you even though polling consistently demonstrates a trend of the people turning against the war.

You waiting for it to hit 99% before you feel "safe" about weighing in?

Naomi Klein rightly argued about the need to bring Iraq to the NYC during the Republican convention in 2004. We echo that only we say it's time to bring it to the people. That means no jerking off over Jessica and Nick or whatever "hot" topic. If you're not weighing in on a war, what are you but a couch potato?

Are you in a coma? Do you not see what's going on?

We ask that question because Bright Eyes gets slammed online by a left site. "When a President Talks To God" is "trite, crudely so, and certainly unenlightening"? Harold Bloom, when did you come online? Or is it the Professor from Gilligan's Island? (We felt the Bloom ref might be lost on the "wit" who penned the critique.)

Maybe you missed the performance of that song? Maybe you weren't at any of the sites on the left that talked of this or listening to The Majority Report whan Janeane Garofalo and Sam Seder played the clip? We're sure reading The New Rag takes up a lot of your time.

But is that your statement? Your full statement on the war?

Gee, thanks for weighing in. Maybe you're one of the sites or magazines that can also say you reviewed Jarhead?

We're so lucky to have you.

All we are saying is just take a stand.

Clooney and Damon have a new movie, you could blather on about that and claim you've addressed the war three times!

We're not sure what you're so scared of. Or why, having been silent, you think anyone cares what you think about the voices calling for an end to the occupation?

Are you Shelly Hack in Annie Hall?

"I'm bascially very shallow and have no ideas or thoughts of my own."

Is that it?

How's that working out for you?

As you muddle down the middle of the road, how's that working out for you?

All we are saying is just take a stand.

Or maybe you're a certain "lefty" radio personality who thinks it's "cute" to make fun of Pacifica Radio. You think it's "funny" to knock community radio that represents the people. We think it's "funny" that you defended your friend who wrote that article, you know the one, on Ann Coulter. We think it's funny that you excused him and let him off the hook, but never explained why or told listeners that he was your friend. We think that's almost as funny as the writer, an uncloseted gay man except in that article, acting like Ann Coulter got him all hot and bothered.

We're not hearing your brave voice. Last time we listened you were still pushing Colin Powell's (false) Pottery Barn analogy. Color us underwhelmed.

When you've done anything on the level of Margret Prescod, Deepa Fernandez, Jeremy Scahill, Juan Gonzalez, Andrea Lewis, Dennis Bernstein, Larry Bensky or anyone else at Pacifica then we'll take your little jabs a little more seriously. For now, deflate your ego, your nowhere near Amy Goodman's level.

All we are saying is just take a stand.

Or maybe you're the rag that helped lead us into war. Atrios puzzled this week over why one of the rag's writers attacked bloggers and defended The New York Times? We didn't puzzle. We know he writes for the paper's book review. We know he covers his own ass. When it takes years and years to turn out your simplistic book about how the world is just like soccer, you need those paychecks from The New York Times.

And if you had any self-respect, you wouldn't be working for The New Rag in the first place. Remember Stephanie's hilarious commercials on Air America? Having learned of the "joke" about Arundhati Roy, we've stopped laughing as we realize that while that attack occurred, Stephanie was schilling for the magazine, claiming it was left.

The New Rag didn't have Judy Miller -- it didn't need her to cheer on this war or every other one. Whether cheering on the contras or spinning false WMD claims, in times of strife, The New Rag will always lead the charge for war.

Remember when The New Rag pushed the racist Bell Curve? Or how about when it was home to such leading "lefties" as Fred Barnes and Andrew Sullivan?

All we are saying is just take a stand.

The New Rag took one. Now it tries to act like it didn't but people are wise to reality and that's why it's circulation is in the toilet. Of all the things that float in a toilet, we think The New Rag may be the most vile. It certainly gives off the worst odor. Can you smell it? It's the scent of death.

That's what war cheerleaders smell like. If and when Judith Miller puts out her signature fragance, I, Judith!, we'll all know the smell. In the meantime, take a sniff of The New Rag the way you would a perfume strip in Vanity Fair.

The New Rag pretends it's of the left when promoting itself -- but it's not. Maybe the fact that it's doing so poorly is why others can't declare that they're for the war?

We don't know. We just know that a lot of people who should have an opinion on the war and should express it don't seem to be able to.

Forget TV news for a moment, the war's hidden by more than TV news.

Seems like a lot of people are getting splinters up their hineys from sitting on that fence.

All we are saying is just take a stand.

Got an opinion on that war? Sitting on the fence waiting to see which way the wind's blowing? (No, that wasn't a Dylan ref.) It's blowing right past you.

Are you someone who rags on Pacifica, or think it's cute to make "jokes" about Arundhati Roy, or maybe you're too busy defending your friend who's penning mash notes to Ann Coulter, or maybe you just can't say anything? Maybe they forgot to program you before you showed up because you'd have to be a robot to have no opinion on the war, right?

Or maybe you're just so busy doing the Joe Lieberman that you've failed to note it's not, in fact, the new dance craze. As you lean over backwards to attempt to kiss ass, people are pointing at you. They're not saying, "What's that wild dance?" They're saying, "How pathetic."

And it is pathetic. It's pathetic that a slam on Bright Eyes will apparently have to pass for your war commentary. Or that Pacifica Radio, which gives voice to people who call in as well as guests like Naomi Klein and Norman Solomon and the Center for Constitutional Rights, is someone you think you're better then as you do your little skit, your little funny, and you summarize what was in the headlines yesterday or the day before or maybe several days before in that "moderate" voice you're so fond of using.

We must have missed you standing next to Amy Goodman and Alan Nairn in East Timor, huh? Because surely when you can knock Pacifica, you've done a butt load of things to be proud of. Not just for yourself of course, but for the whole world. Face it, you're a giver!

All we are saying is just take a stand

If Time had any guts (don't make us laugh), Cindy Sheehan would be their person of the year. The fact that she probably won't be, it has a lot to do with you. You who claim the left but can't be bothered by the war. Because surely what the world needs now is . . . distraction.

Mass distraction.

Danny Schechter,, and BuzzFlash are calling for the "Tell The Truth About The War" Campaign. We agree. But we also feel that sites and magazines wanting to get cred for being left and "left" need to start speaking out as well. It's not just the network news that fails us, it's the people who stay silent for whatever reason.

How is it that, after all this time, you still can't find your opinion? Reach around with both hands, maybe you'll fumble into it.

Again, Naomi Klein asked that we bring Iraq to NYC, meaning that we make it an issue that can't be ignored by demanding it be addressed. (Not, as a simp feared, that there be massive riots -- she wiped the floor with simpy -- the key was to bring up her age, he's very sensitive about his own.) But it is ignored as puff pieces and inane criticism is churned out.

Hey, we can talk about Nick & Jessica too. In fact, Ava & C.I. reviewed their special. Of course, Ava and C.I. got the point across early on that war has a cost -- even if Nick and Jessica couldn't grasp it. You can note the real world if you're reviewing something. You can note what's actually going on. It might require actual thought, as opposed to thumbing through your thesaurus, but it can be done.

All we are saying is just take a stand.

What purpose do you think you're serving? We're reminded of a classic film, of one scene in particular:

"I don't think that that's our function, Sally, I think that we're more a base gossip sheet. You know, fun and games for the fellas?"

"I-I just, I want to say that I'm really shocked, I'm just shocked that you'd rather write about a goddamn baseball homerun then what's going on in this hospital. I mean you wouldn't feel that way if they were your husbands."

Since for some of our brave "left" it was "fashionable" to trash Jane Fonda this summer, we might need to point out that the above is from Coming Home. Oh, but wait, she's spoken out against this war. Bright Eyes, he spoke out as well. Maybe you think trashing them qualifies for your war stance?

We think you need to figure out where you stand on the war. Choose a side already. Unless you are just a gossip sheet as well.

Kat's words can be distorted in any manner someone chooses. It doesn't change reality. It doesn't change the fact that anyone who reads her writing knows she's firmly against the war.
So before a writer gets outraged that Kat disagrees with him, apparently after he took time off from scolding Kayne West over points of order, maybe that time would be better spent forming an opinion and actually expressing it. Not on the tired topic of Bob Dylan. No one needed, at this late date, your "moderate" view of Bob Dylan.

What a safe little post that was. On the one hand, on the other. He's wrong but I think Bob's great because . . .

Did you smell a Pulitzer? Or maybe a Webbie? We certainly had to hold our noses reading it.

It's not good enough. The war is about to enter year three. If you're for it, say you for it. If you're against it, say you're against it. Not some mealy mouth "on the one hand but on the other" statement. People are dying and if you can't find a voice you're not helping anyone. The fact that you're writing about "soft subjects" isn't an excuse. Kat can and has weighed in on the war in her CD reviews. Ava and C.I. have taken on Colin Powell and his "blot." This Sunday they highlighted a key line of narration, one that goes to where we are today, in their review of Everybody Hates Chris.

A war's gone of over two years, at what point do you find your voice? Knocking Pacifica or Bright Eyes, or Jane Fonda or Kat, may make you feel you look reasonable. You don't. You look indecisive.

Maybe you're afraid someone will distort your words? Kat's words got distorted, she lived.

All we are saying is just take a stand.

To paraphrase a line Michelle Pfeiffer delivers in The Russia House, "I hope you're not being frivilous with me. I only have time in my life now for the truth."

As of right now, we're looking at 22 American troop fatalites in Iraq. Who knows how many Iraqis have died this month -- Bully Boy don't do body counts. We need the truth and we're not getting it from slams at Bright Eyes or attacks on Arundhati Roy. You know what's "unenlightening"? Your boring us with your useless blathering shout outs to The New Rag. Your inability to speak to the realities we're living through right now. Your blind eye to torture.
That's "unenlightening." And before you use a word that conjures up the enlightenment, you might want to ask yourself what you've weighed in with that spoke to that period because a historical look at Bob Dylan is neither "hot" nor needed when done so poorly. In fact, we'd suggest that you listen to the song Dylan wrote with Sam Shepard and pay close attention when the line about "original thought" comes up because we think you'll be able to relate.

Until then, keep cheering on whatever adult plays a teenager in a push up bra with a flat affect that you feel passes for deadpan. It's post-post-modern! Or maybe more can be wrung out of a Republican's fantasy of women where they're all dithering airheads, just play-things with nothing to do but be helpless or backbite or fight over a man. They're their own play-things so maybe you think that makes the difference? We didn't buy it when Madonna claimed she was showing power because she chained herself.

Maybe the big topic in your home honestly is arguing over what entertainment programs you will watch on TV because you just feel that there are a wealth of choices airing. If so, that's rather sad if you're no longer 14.

You take a stand or you accept that you're frivilous. In which case, stop trashing the people who do have the guts to take a stand against this war.

We support the Tell the Truth movement. We just think it needs to be expanded to include people who seem left but can't find the time to write a thing about the war.

All we are saying is just take a stand

Need a topic? Norman Solomon has rightly pointed out that the air war is getting no mainstream media coverage. Instead of slamming someone who had the guts to speak out or tossing out shout outs to The New Rag, how about writing about that? Too hard? How about writing about Laura Flanders or Amy Goomdan or any of the people who are making a difference. It may not be as fun for you as drooling over a young hottie or play to the beltway but it might get the word out on something that truly matters. And guess what? There are many more names. We're sure you can find at least one that you don't feel the need to trash.

[This editorial was written by The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and Jim, Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man, C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review, Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills), Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix, Mike of Mikey Likes It!, Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz and Wally of The Daily Jot.]
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