Getting Used To The New America
Boy, have things changed in this country over the last six years. Thanks to privately owned electronic voting machines and HAVA, free, fair and verifiable elections are no longer the method for choosing our leaders. Thanks to the Patriot Act and secret NSA domestic spying programs, we no longer have the right to privacy in our homes, papers and communications. Thanks to the Terrorist Detainee bill, we no longer have the privilege and protection of habeas corpus, meaning we can be imprisoned indefinitely without the right to contest the legitimacy of the charges against us. Thanks to that same bill, we now condone torture. Thanks to the Bush doctrine, we are an aggressor nation with a first strike policy. And thanks to media consolidation, there is no longer any meaningful freedom of the press, only the freedom to propagandize for profit. We’ve come a long way Baby!
That last one, the failure of a free press, has been the grease that has facilitated our slide away from democratic principles, but it’s not too late for them to redeem themselves. This morning, MSNBC played a videotape of someone being waterboarded. That is a great thing and a small step in the right direction. Not great that we, as a country, endorse a policy of using waterboarding as an acceptable method of interrogation, but that a cable news channel is showing their viewers what that really means. When you hear the President and the Vice President extol the virtues of waterboarding, you can almost imagine that it’s some kind of water sport, fun for all involved, rather than what it is, a form of torture that simulates drowning and can cause serious long lasting physical and psychological damage and can even result in death. The only problem with the MSNBC tutorial was that there was no sound (here is a YouTube video of waterboarding with sound). Mainstream media has no problem playing audio tapes of 911 calls made by victims of violent crime that put on display, in gruesome detail, the terror they experience, so why not use the very effective audio that would truly convey the horror of what we are, as a country, doing without apology?
The same is true of the Iraq occupation. Americans need to see what we are supporting, with our tax dollars, with our children and with our vote that allows it to continue. We need to see what an Iraqi town or city looks like once we have sent our troops in to “clear the area” of insurgents. Show us the devastation, the blood, the dead children and screaming mothers. Show us our wounded soldiers and the dead look in the eyes of the ones forced to perpetrate such crimes against humanity in this rich man’s war. Show us the angry protests of the Iraqi people that want more than anything for us to get the hell out of their country while there’s still a few buildings left standing. Show us that this conflict is real, and that “victory” will come at a very high price. Show us the truth, the ugly and unvarnished truth. That is supposed to be your job after all.
The occupation of Iraq and the so-called “war on terror” are not policies that we the people can detach ourselves from. We are responsible and accountable for what our government does in our name, and the press is responsible for giving us the details of what that means. A free press should connect the people with their government and should create a sense of ownership, encourage participation and make sure that the people are informed enough to feel engaged and determine whether or not we are prepared to “stay the course.” The American press has fallen down on the job and they have made a lot of money doing it. The only way that we will get what we need from them is if we make it clear that there is a profit to be made. Appealing to their sense of duty as the only private enterprise to be included in our constitution has proven ineffective. That they are a critical element in a thriving democracy, sadly, seems irrelevant to them. But as Keith Olbermann is proving on a daily basis, there is money to be made in speaking the truth.
We live in a new America and it’s time for mainstream media to reflect back at us, just what we have become. If we don’t like what we see, we can be moved to change it, but if we are kept in the dark, never allowed to see the truth and never encouraged to take ownership of the society we are creating, then we will continue to deteriorate as a nation. I honestly believe that if average Americans were given even a glimpse of the new America, they would reject it outright. Then, together, we could move forward. We will never be what we were, but from where we sit now, we can either choose to be better or worse. In order to choose better, we must demand better from our press, otherwise, we choose to be worse by default.