Sunday, April 18, 2010

Editorial: The problem with (not) listening

Stupid people don't even listen! They don't even know how to listen!


That's something some on the left might say about the right; however, it's becoming more and more applicable to the left as well. We watch in amazement as no one bothers to listen. Let's offer two examples.

Take independent media. We're supposed to be listening, we're supposed to be following it. Earlier this month, Scott Horton (Antiwar Radio) interviewed Dahr Jamail and they noted the jockeying for positions in Iraq following the March 7th elections:

Scott Horton: But as far as the narrative of: "Look an election! Isn't that great! The democratic process! Better than Saddam Hussein! He used to re-elect himself with 99%!" And, you know, here in this case, it looks like the current prime minister didn't even try or wasn't able to rig the election for himself effectively and all that. But at the same time, it seems like, the neocons are counting on the ignorance of the American people and because Chris Matthews only talks about what Republicans and Democrats say on Capitol Hill to each other, all day, for about two and a half hours, twice a day, or whatever, the American people don't really know anything about Iraq -- who's in power there, which different factions are doing this, that or the other thing. There might be a little bit of a mention of something but never any real context and so I remember back in 2005 when they did the election, that really -- with the El Salvador option -- helped precipitate the civil war by turning the whole country over to the Supreme Islamic Council and Moqtada al-Sadr basically and the Iraqi National Alliance. Even Jon Stewart was going, "Wow! Maybe George W. Bush was right. Look at this woman with purple ink on her finger. Maybe Iraq is a democracy now." Well, then another few 100,000 people got killed after that. Now we have another one of these. And it turns out Moqtada al-Sadr is the kingmaker and he's sitting in Tehran right now trying to figure out whether he wants to throw his weigh towards CIA agent-murderer [Ayad] Allawi or Revolutionary Guard Agent-murderer [Nouri al-] Maliki. And this is what the neocons and Newsweek are telling the American people, "Look! They've got ink on their fingers!" You don't have a narrative, you don't know who's who, you don't know who's winning or if one group takes power over this group what's that like, what consequences that's likely to have. None of this context is provided. "But, look, a woman with purple ink. We're actually, we're doing okay here, folks." That's why it works. Because the rest of the time they won't tell us about Iraq at all. Then when they say anything, they go, "Hey, look, a still shot. Make up your own 10,000 words.

Dahr Jamail: Well that's exactly right, Scott. And I think that's a really good description and analysis of how this has been perpetuated from the beginning where we have a corporate media that relies on the ignorance and-and a US government that relies on the ignorance of the American public. And, of course, the corporate media has been instrumental in ensuring that ignorance. I mean, we can go back to before the invasion took place and basically what people got on TV was a graphic of Saddam Hussein's head with a bulls eye on it. Or cross hairs. This kind of thing. You know: "This is all you need to know. You don't need to know that the CIA backed him in a coup that put him in a position of power in 1968. You don't need to know the US government supported him through his worst atrocities. You don't need to know that the US supported both Iraq and Iran during that brutal eight-year war that killed over a million people. You don't need to know these things. You don't need to know that we supported the twelve-and-a-half years of genocidal sanctions, that, oh yeah, according to Madeline Albright and the UN, killed over half-a-million Iraqi children. You don't need to know these things. You just need to know this is the bad guy and we're going to kill him and you're going to be safe and you can go shopping in that safety and rest assured that everything is just fine." And it's the same with these elections. You don't need to know that Maliki, even before the election results were released, when it became clear to him that he was not going to get the plurality, that he basically went to the Supreme Court in Iraq -- this is going to sound a little familiar to folks -- so he goes to the Supreme Court and basically has them change the rules of the game so that instead of whoever gets the plurality during the election can start forming their own government, instead he now has until June when the Parliament reconvenes to basically take out as many of Allawi's elected ministers of Parliament as possible. Because, basically, the last man standing in June when Parliament reconvenes, whoever has the most MPs, that is who is going to get to form the new cabinet. So conveniently Maliki's basically given himself two months to go out and hit as many of Allawi's people as possible. And that's exactly what he's done. So far, he's taken two of them into custody, charging them with terrorism. You know, everything's terrorism now, so he's charging them with terrorism. And one person is where abouts unknown. And then another MP in Allawi's list is in hiding. So already, he's at least made it even Steven and probably already taken the lead. And, of course, we have the Sadr wildcard which is a bit of another story but you described it well and all that I just described is-is against the backdrop of the context that both of these guys are US stooges and perhaps this is why Newsweek declares it a resounding success -- aside from just the propaganda value. But, "Hey, it's a resounding success because we have Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum as the two leading candidates in this election and, oh, guess what? The US created both these guys, put both these guys in the positions of power that they're in and they wouldn't exist without the US occupation in that country. And guess what? One of them's going to win, so the US is going to win either way." And maybe that's why Newsweek was so triumphant about their "Mission Accomplished" cover? And, oh yeah, it took a little longer because we didn't have that kind of a rigged deck in the last election but in this one, by golly, we do."

They addressed the spin America was being served versus the knowledge that was needed. Was anyone listening?

We ask that because who has followed up on that? Hours and hours of broadcasts for Pacifica Radio to fill and who has followed up on that?

No one. And the right-wing didn't disappear. They continue to sell Iraq as a "success." They continue to put out propaganda. And the left does nothing. If this continues, in five years time, look for the left to express amazement that people believe the Iraq War was about WMD. The lies keep getting repeated and they are not being shot down by the left.

The left loves to whine about how Noam Chomsky is shut out by the MSM. Amy Goodman loves to refer to Noam as "the dissident scholar." And the apparent implication in all of that is that the left (we're so damn smart!) actually listens to Noam Chomsky.

Do we really?

This month, Matthew Rothschild penned "Chomsky Warns of Risk of Fascism in America" (The Progressive) about a speech Noam Chomsky delivered at the University of Wisconsin. In it, he warned against ridiculing the Tea Party. Rothschild reported:

Their attitudes "are understandable," he said. "For over 30 years, real incomes have stagnated or declined. This is in large part the consequence of the decision in the 1970s to financialize the economy." There is class resentment, he noted. "The bankers, who are primarily responsible for the crisis, are now reveling in record bonuses while official unemployment is around 10 percent and unemployment in the manufacturing sector is at Depression-era levels," he said. And Obama is linked to the bankers, Chomsky explained. "The financial industry preferred Obama to McCain," he said. "They expected to be rewarded and they were. Then Obama began to criticize greedy bankers and proposed measures to regulate them. And the punishment for this was very swift: They were going to shift their money to the Republicans. So Obama said bankers are 'fine guys' and assured the business world: 'I, like most of the American people, don't begrudge people success or wealth. That is part of the free-market system.' People see that and are not happy about it." He said "the colossal toll of the institutional crimes of state capitalism" is what is fueling "the indignation and rage of those cast aside." "People want some answers," Chomsky said. "They are hearing answers from only one place: Fox, talk radio, and Sarah Palin."

Chomsky's very clear in what he's saying, Rothschild's very clear in his reporting. So where's the response?

If you can't grasp what Noam Chomsky is talking about, he's addressing the anger that is out there in the country. And that anger's been there for some time. That anger fueled the 2006 mid-terms and swept Democrats into power. It fueled the 2008 elections and gave Democrats even more power. That's the same anger that's out there now.

It wasn't racism when Democrats tapped into for victories and it's not racism now that it's turned against the Democrats.

And yet that's what the left has repeatedly and wrongly insisted upon screaming. When not, of course, using homophobic terms to describe Tea Party activists (thereby implying that there is both something wrong with them and wrong with the LGBT community -- the left scores a double on the insult playing field!). We've heard it from Lila Garrett (KPFK), we've heard it from Kris Welch (KPFA), we've heard it from alleged radical attorneys. Yeah, we've heard it from everyone and, guess what, so have other people.

That's the Tea Party activists, that's the middle. And when they want to look to someone to listen to, you really think that Lila Garrett's going to be a go-to for them after all those insults? After all the hate she's spewed?

We've pointed it out, Bob Somerby's pointed it out and now Noam Chomsky is pointing it out: The left is creating an environment where the right is the 'voice of truth.'

This anger, which we've been charting forever, is free floating and, as we've said before, it will glom on something.

Democrats in Congress and the White House have done an awful job. The Iraq War has not ended, the Afghanistan War has not ended, the Patriot Act was renewed, ObamaCare is neither single-payer or anything to brag about, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" remains both on the books and still practiced, prisoners remain held at Guantamano and we could go on and on.

In the 2006 mid-terms, Democrats were given control of both houses of Congress because the American people were angry, disgusted and worried. The Democrats did damn little for two years but say they needed more seats in Congress and the White House to accomplish anything. America went along with them in 2008. It's now 2010 and they have nothing to hide behind, nothing. They try to hide behind Bush but that's as ridiculous as when George W. Bush tried to hide behind Bill Clinton. At some point, long before you leave office, you own the problems facing the country.

And as people struggle to keep their jobs, to keep their homes, how do you think it looks when Barack Obama flies into Miami for a fundraiser at the home of a Republican and faded musical star (Gloria Estefan) and walks aways with $2.5 million dollars?

The Democratic politicians have no idea how badly they are coming off.

In part, that's due to the disgusting 'independent' media which would rather serve up the ridiculous Melissa Harris-Lacewell at The Nation weighing in how wonderful and amazing closeted Oprah's Christmas interview with Barack and Michelle was. That passes for 'independent media' these days.

Understand that the anger is also being fed by The Nation and various other outlets and individuals who refuse to maintain the same ethical standards they had before Barack was sworn in as president of the United States. Instead, they are, as Justin Raimondo ( noted last week, "Obama administration's media schills".

The left needs to take a moment to recall the way they recoiled in horror during 2001 and 2002 as Midge Decter, Jonah Goldberg and assorted others crawled on their bellies to worship at the feet of George W. Bush. That right wingers might be predisposed to like Bush, a Republican, wasn't surprising. That they would disgrace themselves with the kind of political whoring for a leader that is rarely seen off mainland China was astounding.

A large number of people on the left are making ridiculous fools of themselves today. Elected officials are elected by the people to represent the people. They are not gods nor are they heroes. But a number of people who'll soon be in coffins apparently want to go out pretending as though the Eisenhower era was immediately followed by the Reagan era and as if we learned nothing from 'the sixties.'

When we on the left behave that way, we don't just provide laughter for the right and the middle, we ensure that we will never reach them with anything we say because we have demonstrated we're nothing but whores who will bash Bush with Guantanamo, for example, but rush to justify and excuse Barack breaking his promise (and his timeline) to close it.

You don't come off as honest brokers when that's how you present to the public.

Noam Chomsky is warning about the anger. The anger itself isn't the problem. Even Chomsky notes that it's justified. The problem is only one side is currently able to speak to the angry. The left has ensured that the angry have no reason to listen to them. They've done that by insisting they were just uneducated, they were racists and every other insult in the book. That's not how you persuade anyone to listen to you.

The left likes to pretend it does actual work and focuses on things that matter. Nothing in the last two years from Pacifica, The Nation, et al has demonstrated that to be the case.

Keep it up and, as Chomsky warns, prepare for fascism.
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