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The biggest danger in the world, is not the average American who might be in favor of war in order to “liberate” another country. No, the biggest danger in this world is the education system that produced that American. Because it was that system, those schools, that curriculum, and those teachers, who gave that person the tools he would use to interpret the world around him, for the rest of his/her life. Sure, parental figures are important, but reality is, whoever your guardian, they’re probably working 1 or 2 jobs just to keep that roof over your head and the clothes on your back, etc. Your real education today, when its not coming from your loved ones, is coming at you from all sides when it comes to TV and school. And if that school doesn’t teach a person to ask questions, to ask how things work, to seek more information than that which is spoonfed to them, then that person may never learn to do so.

Never has this been more apparent than now. Tabloid newspapers publish embarassingly ignorant headlines depicting the French as the culture which America saved and died for which now turns their back on the United States. With a large photo of Normandy to boot. CBS’s Andy Rooney, who has already received piercing criticism from this journalist, in his old wise age, still has his own program on that network, where he presents news to the public, with his own commentary mixed in. This week Rooney decided to “englighten” the viewers about the French. This man who neither speaks French or has ever lived there longer than his tour of media duty in the 40’s, told millions of CBS watchers about how the French “Have no right to an opinion” because they “owe” the United States for having saved their country and defeated the Germans in WWII.

This same idea has been spreading like wildfire throughout the American media. Whats alarming is not that it’s spreading in a populist, racist, ill-informed, and attention seeking media environment. Rather, it is that so many Americans read this and it appeals to this sensitive memory or this national pride, it touches of some misplaced anger, and the result is poor humor like “Surrender like the French.” This is poor humor because it ignores the sufferring and starvation endured by France during the occupation, and it negates the enormous resistance movement and all those who died for it. It ignores that fact that untold millions of Russians and Germans had already died long before Normandy. It ignores how many millions of innocent Polish, Russians, Germans, Czechs, French, and British died before America finally decided to get involved.

Rooney has a right to his opinion. But once he gets in front of millions to put forth information, he then has a responsibility, to the public. If he presents one side of an arguement or opinion, he must present the otherside, otherwise he’s nothing but a propaganda producing would-be journalist. Furthermore, if he is indeed a journalist, then part of his job is to question public officials and government decisions.

It is not for the journalist or any media to promote or support the decision of elected officials, they have media people to do that for them. No, it’s the media’s role to keep them in check, to make sure their information isn’t full of holes and half-truths. But alas, that’s what a media is supposed to do, it hasn’t been doing that in America or several other countries for quite a long time. There’s a long overdue reform that the people must demand of the very media that seek their attention. Trouble is, if people aren’t educated properly, only schooled in “their” national history and never told the other side of the story, never shown the other truths that are out there, they’ll just keep eating the same spoon-fed government propaganda… and they’ll even say thank you.

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I once again refer to the Asia Times for a most excellent commentary on patriotic stupidity. Remember, friends don’t let friends, be patriotic. Like Ho Chi Min said as his country was being colonized by France, “Patriotism is ignorant and dangerous.” (he said something to that effect)

COMMENTARY

Press the patriotism button, baby

By Sreeram Chaulia

In George W Bush’s America, it is the season for political dolls to again become big hits with shoppers, reminding toy market analysts of the Saddam Hussein “action figures” that stole the Christmas sales in the winter of 1990-91. A small firm in the state of Connecticut, Herobuilders Inc, is raking in fabulous profits generated by unique 12-inch talking world figures that utter politically correct dialogues when the button on their heads is pressed.

Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein comes wrapped in a pocket-sized sado-masochistic outfit, holding nukes and germs in either hand, threatening to blow up the “free world”. Herobuilders’ figure of the US president, spouting 17 tough-talking Bushisms, sold out its inventory of 50,000 dolls in less than a week in early December 2002. Among the doll’s aphorisms are Bush’s landmark declaration made at Ground Zero in New York after the twin World Trade Center towers were destroyed, “The people who knocked down these buildings will hear all of us soon.” This dialogue is followed by raucous background cheering of construction workers and rescuers: “USA! USA! USA!”

The piece de resistance of Herobuilders’ repertoire is the talking doll of Osama bin Laden, costing US$36. Press down on his white turban and he squeaks in a rather Yankee-doodle style, “I suck! Would you stop bombing me? You’re killing me. I suck! My turban is too tight, I made a big mistake, all jihad go home. I was just kidding. I suck. Oohoohoohoohoo!” Toyshops claim that this doll has beaten all previous action figure sales records and that makers are planning a second version programmed with even more funny quotes from the sheikh.

Toys of British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani are struggling to compete with this all-star lineup, but they, too, have interesting comments to make. Blair convinces buyers that it is in the “interests of world peace that Saddam is disarmed”. Giuliani praises the “spirit of New York which can never be cowed down by mad terrorists”.

What is to be made of all this? One way of looking at the phenomenon is to argue that Americans are a very informal, sporty people and enjoy spoofs of politics and politicians. Ever-popular WWF wrestlers mimic the president and wear underwear with the stars-and-stripes on it. “Dubyaman” comics and pictures of Bush reading “Presidency for Dummies” circulate with rapidity. Talk show comedians come on television and rubbish Kim Jong-il as a dissolute dimwit. Irreverence and casualness, according to this line of thought, is endemic to the American way of life and no icon is too big to be spared some debunking in popular culture.

The alternative view, which I hold, is that Herobuilders company is nicely buttressing the Bush doctrine of preemptive war to “extend the benefits of freedom across the world”. (See The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, September 2002). When legendary trainer Nick Bollettieri was asked the secret of America’s monopoly of world tennis champions, he replied, “We catch them young.” Political dolls do a similar service – they capture and color the psychology of American youth at a formative and impressionistic age. The norms and ideas the Bush, Saddam and bin Laden dolls impart are far more effective than what children learn in school textbooks.

As subtle carriers of propaganda, a-la James Bond films during the Cold War, the dolls help shape a new generation of proud, nationalistic and president-saluting citizens. They sow the seeds of a peculiar American morality whose first canon is “we” are good and “they” (“Russkies”, “commies” or “jhadis”) are evil. The simplistic dichotomy of good against evil, which the Bush doctrine reiterates, does not raise eyebrows in average American homes, thanks to the groundwork laid by action figures and Superman cartoons. It is the same spadework that results in a singularly American trait: “flag patriotism”, which far supersedes the occasional underwear buffoonery of wrestlers. In no other country does one get to see the national flag so profusely exhibited in front of homesteads, on motor vehicles, in shopping malls and on school bags of tiny tots.

These visual symbols collectively assist in inculcating the unquestioning sense of loyalty toward a regime that is waging war after war after war. Latest opinion polls conducted earlier this month reveal that 87 percent of Americans consider Iraq a “threat to national security”. That such an overwhelming majority has bought the Bush line – without conducting any objective analysis or common sense thinking – is living proof that the business of “getting folks to rally behind the flag” is roaring in America.

Noted historian Tariq Ali has likened Bush’s Americanism to another form of religious fundamentalism that thrives on whitewashing domination, manipulation and extermination, and relying on the good-evil paradigm to prepare domestic constituencies for foreign misdemeanors. Taboo questions that are not encouraged in this “religion” range from “Why are we going after some evil, and ignoring or mollycoddling other evil?” and “Did you know that the US air force used chemical and biological weapons extensively in the Korean War?” to “Why do we spuriously parrot that our actions always defend democracy and liberate oppressed people when we know that it is a lie?”

The most that adherents of this religion are willing to acknowledge, as the character named “Control” does to Richard Burton in the classic Cold War flick The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, is that “we” sometimes use “evil methods” to counter evil, thereby preserving good in the end.

A tiny segment of American civil society, located in university campuses, church dioceses and human rights organizations, is without doubt vibrant and vigilant, organizing peace marches and asking the taboo questions. But their efforts are largely met with apathy, or worse, antipathy from the mainstream. Last month, I marched in a peace rally in Syracuse, a small New York town, and found to my consternation that the 50-odd banners we planted on the grass along pavements near the city center were crossed out with red paint the morning after the demonstration.

Our script had read “No blood for oil in Iraq”. In red sanguine-looking paint, someone had retorted: “Be American. God Bless.” Only a religion, thoroughly internalized, can propel citizens to brave the cold of snowy nights simply to overwrite a few taboo questions on innocuous placards. Here was a first-rate illustration of Tariq Ali’s “clash of fundamentalisms”.

In 1988, John Mackenzie published Propaganda and Empire. The Manipulation of British Public Opinion, a remarkable history of ideas and norms that formed the societal consensus behind the last round of British worldwide expansionism. Glorification of martial virtues and the persona of Queen Victoria, backed by misinformation about the civilizing mission of colonizers like Cecil Rhodes, spread to all layers of British society from the 1880s onward. Textbooks, imaginative brochures, advertising, theater, radio and institutions like the Boy Scouts were used by the crown to trumpet the “liberation” (more accurately, the selective genocide) of the “heathen lands”. No room was left for doubt whether the colonial project was causing irreparable human and psychological damage to the subject peoples.

The air in America these days is a lot similar. The Cold War ended de jure in 1991, but the glory and religious fervor of unipolar empire is sinking in only after September 11. More and more common citizens are getting touchy about “pacifists” who oppose the Bush doctrine. More and more school kids are punching the plastic helmet on Herobuilders’ Saddam Hussein toy to hear the Iraqi dictator guffaw and warn, “America, I’m coming for you with all my germs.” More and more children, asked what they want to be when they grow up, say “Real American Hero”.

(?2003 Asia Times Online Co, Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact content@atimes.com for information on our sales and syndication policies, or to submit a letter to the editor.)

Flag of Convenience

by bicyclemark 0 Comments

Well… the Spanish government, as usual, has been completely impotent do defend Galicia from the toxic black poison that has hit the shores all over that region. Aznar has proven once and for all, to be one of the worst prime ministers in Spain’s history… the man has no plans for anything except arresting people who don’t follow his politics.

Local governments have tried setting up those floating bueys that are supposed to block the oil, but the ocean is so rough that the waves are going right over these barriers. The slick is making its way into the Minho River in northern Portugal. The EU is unacceptably taking forever to respond! This is precisely when a rapid reaction military force could be put to use… send them instantly to stop the oil slick. with all the guns and bombs – all they know how to do is destroy, they are rarely used to protect and serve.

The boat was registered in Bahamas. The government of Bahamas will be one of the first to be taken to trial if there is any justice on this planet! An American company was the last to inspect the ship, that company is the second entity to be taken to court, they let that ship sail! The European Parliament balked on a bill to ban ships like the prestige from sailing because they didnt want to hurt oil prices, the ENTIRE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT must be taken before a world court, charged with endangering the planet and destroying the lives of EU citizens. This should be war… this is truely terror!

Wellstone Conspiracy

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Bicyclemark refuses to drop this issue of Paul Wellstone’s death! The investigation is taking, strangely enough, much longer than expected. Heres whats come out about the pilot according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

– According to records from Conry’s (the pilot) criminal fraud conviction, his training experience at American Eagle was sandwiched between his indictment in the fraudulent home-building scheme and his sentencing to a federal prison camp in South Dakota in connection with that case. He was sentenced April 27, 1990, and was released from prison in November 1991.

– Conry never was named a first officer or co-pilot at the airline and never flew a passenger flight at American Eagle.

– Conry never disclosed his criminal history to Executive Aviation

Just a plane crash? Sure… that’s what the major political parties.. especially the one in power, would like it to be remembered as. They don’t care much about justice and the truth!