(Click here to view a short video we put together here at Okie Funk about the Iraq occupation. Be sure to turn up the speakers.)
Salon.com blogger and author Glenn Greenwald is writing the best media criticism in the nation right now.
One of his latest posts deals with an important issue raised by many bloggers and political activists in the past several years. (Okie Funk has raised this point, too.) Essentially, Greenwald’s argument is this: Those people who were 100 percent right about the Iraq occupation and opposed it from the beginning continue to be marginalized by mainstream media outlets.
I would go further to say there remains an institutionalized bigotry and bias—at least in my part of the world—targeting people who were right about the most important foreign policy event in a generation. (Greenwald may or may not agree with this.) The people who were wrong about weapons of mass destruction, who predicted foolishly the Iraq war would be a cakewalk, cost little money and secure democracy in the Middle East, remain ensconced in power in public and private institutions. They work against people who were right about all these points. This institutionalized bigotry is subtle, for sure, but it exists. Some people have suffered in their jobs and in their private lives because they were right. They continue to suffer.
Here is the prevailing premise of the bigotry: If you were wrong about Iraq, then that is okay. You are a good conservative or so-called “liberal hawk,” who deserves to be rewarded with leadership positions, raises, promotions and all the spoils of institutionalized prestige and success. (This is a view promoted by media outlets such as The New York Times and The Washington Post.) If you were right, you are a leftist kook who needs to go sit in the corner and shut up. In this way, using this illogic, the right-wing continues to triumph and dominate almost every sector of American life. The Iraq occupation is truly the ur-event that defines how the right-wing has managed to shift the political discourse so far to the right, that even right and wrong, truth and lying, are no longer operative or even debated in any meaningful sense.
This may sound like sour grapes coming from someone who publicly opposed the war from the beginning, but the philosophical and political implications here are enormous, and they deserve reconsideration as the American military death toll in Iraq climbs to 4,000 and the occupation extends into its sixth year. Greenwald compares the illogical premise in the previous paragraph to someone using a surgeon that has repeatedly botched your operations. Why would you continue to use a surgeon who makes mistakes and causes you harm? Yet that is what mainstream media outlets do, that is what most public institutions continue to do. They continue to rely on and reward people who were completely wrong, whose shallow ideology has miserably failed this country. Columnist William Kristol, a new columnist at The New York Times, is one of these people.
Do you personally know someone in a position of leadership—political or otherwise—who supported the Iraq invasion and was wrong about how easy it would be to occupy the country? Have they recanted, apologized, spoke out? No. Then that person should not be in that particular position of leadership. Their judgment cannot and should not be trusted on any issue.
What is at stake here is nothing less than the basic structures of our democracy. Certainly, pure democracy is not necessarily dependent on right or wrong. Misguided, bigoted people can and do vote to reward “wrong,” but a long-term, systematic embrace of the illogical as is the case with the Iraq occupation can only result in governmental tyranny and the permanent displacement of the truth-seeking individual. This has already happened to some extent in our country. It continues to happen.
The most recent lie, for example, of Imperial President George Bush, the worst president in American history, is that the so-called “surge” is working. But the bombings continue in Iraq, Americans continue to lose their lives (more American soldiers died in 2007 than in any other year of the war), Iraq’s political systems remain impotent and vulnerable and the American treasury will be plundered for at least $3 trillion. Every day brings more news of the continuing carnage, but it does not fit the current Bush spin cycle. So it is all relegated to the back pages, and then the right-wing pundits—some like Thomas Friedman of The New York Times actually have the gall to define themselves as centrists or moderates—pronounce that everything, really, everything is okay in Iraq.
Meanwhile, our country flounders in an economic morass created by the very same people who were wrong about Iraq. But do not count on the country’s basic institutions to make this connection and replace their leadership.
Until this country and its basic public and private institutions reward those people who were right about Iraq, the country will continue its downward spiral. Do not count on American mainstream media outlets to cover in any depth this spiral. Do not count on the country’s most basic institutions to correct the Big Error. They are the main reason this country is in distress in the first place.
As Ford Madox Ford writes in his novel The Good Soldier, “It is all a darkness.”
Here's the link to the above video.
If anyone needs another lesson in how the local right-wing propaganda ministry works in Oklahoma, go no further than the recent lie through omission presented in a story by The Daily Oklahoman about a Marine protecting Ol’ Glory against evil war protesters.
The main problem here is the storyline is fundamentally inaccurate. It fails to clearly mention the so-called “war protestors” in question are freaky, radical anti-gay bigots from the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. Check them out at the GodHatesFags.com site.
(James Branum at JMBzine.com broke the news about the newspaper’s shoddy reporting, and his post can also be found on Daily Kos and Blue Oklahoma. The image to the right shows the organization in action at another protest.)
Led by Fred Phelps, the church pickets throughout the country at various events and venues, arguing essentially that homosexuality is to be blame for all things evil in the world today. (Sound Kernishly familiar, folks?) In recent years, the radical organization has been picketing the funerals of American soldiers killed in Iraq because, according to Wikipedia, Phelps believes, “Our attitude toward what's happening with the war is [that] the Lord is punishing this evil nation for abandoning all moral imperatives that are worth a dime.”
These freaks apparently showed up to protest outside Tinker Air Force Base on Friday, March 14. Counter protesters showed up as well. (These counter protesters—and I have been among them—are usually a loose collection of both liberal and conservative groups and people.) A Marine reservist, Ray Modisette, of Shawnee, happened to see one of the Westboro freaks do something to the American flag he did not like. He was arrested as he tried to retrieve the flag because police said he was interfering with their ability to monitor the protesters and counter protesters.
Later, of course, Modisette was cleared of all charges and lauded as an American hero in the most conservative newspaper in the nation. Ultimately, most people on the right or left would have no problem here with the lack of charges, though his actions do call out for context given the Westboro Baptist Church’s agenda. With all due respect to Modisette, these questions need to be asked: Was Modisette standing up for gay rights or just for the flag or for both? Was he aware of the church’s background? Did he think these people were regular peace activists? The newspaper’s story gives us no clue.
But, again, the real issue here is The Oklahoman failed in its March 18 story to fully identify the so-called war protesters even though the information about Westboro Baptist Church is readily available on the Internet. (The story does mention the protesters were from the church, but it does not clearly identify its anti-gay agenda.) The group has previously protested in Oklahoma. The story obviously tries to intentionally deceive readers into believing this group is made up of typical war protesters opposed to the botched Iraq occupation, which is now in its sixth year. In fact, these particular war protesters are a radical hate group and are not and will never be supported by the country’s peace activists.
It seems obvious The Oklahoman deliberately distorted—I think lied is a better term here—the story in order to slander the peace movement as the Iraq occupation approached its five-year anniversary. The Associated Press then apparently picked up the story, reduced it even further, and The Tulsa World picked it up. Of course, the right-wing blogosphere then got into the act. Michelle Malkin, an ultra conservative blogger, posted a piece that stuck with the fictional storyline.
This is how the right-wing spreads its lies, and this is why are country’s democratic structures are now threatened. Instead of giving accurate information about the Westboro Baptist Church, the newspaper reduces it to a reductionist symbol of all war protesters, which is a lie. Not only did the newspaper lie through this glaring omission, it failed to note how radical the Westboro group is, and thus missed an opportunity to educate people about a frightening hate organization that is sure to return to the state.
In addition, the recent anti-gay rant of state Rep. Sally Kern obviously comes from the same cesspool of ignorance embraced by the Westboro folks. Consequently, the newspaper missed another opportunity to put Kern’s radical remarks in the context of Christian extremism. In the end, it is difficult not to see the newspaper story as yet another despicable act of hatred against gay people.