Please take a moment to read a story published in 2006.
Please take a moment to read a story published in 2006.
Every morning I receive a run-down of news that will never
make the main stream media.
Here’s one worth noting today.
Video Leak: US Attack Helicopter Kills Farmers While Pilot Sings
Under the headline is an apology to singer-song writer Don Mclean who wrote these words.
"So, bye bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry
Them good ol' boys were drinking whiskey and rye, singing...
This'll be the day that I die
This'll be the day that I die?"
In the video you are about to view, the disconnect of these American Soldiers is stunning. The Irony cuts deep because “American Pie” is a song about lost innocence.Here is the video.
The snow has melted in Afghanistan. That means it's near harvest time. After twelve years of war, we have learned, this is the time when the fighting gets more intense.
Harvest time is when the “War on Terrorism” becomes a drug war. Why? According to a report published by “The Open Society Institute,” the massive drug trafficking of hashish and heroin funds not only Afghan insurgents but “...the drug trafficking funds international terrorism...” as well.
Again Apologies to Don McLean:
"Bad news on the doorstep - I couldn't take one more step
I can't remember if I cried when I read about his widowed bride
Something touched me deep inside the day the music died."
The “widowed bride” is widely believed to be a reference to
Jackie Kennedy following her husband’s assassination. At the time he was
killed, Mr. Kennedy was trying to get American soldiers out of Vietnam. After
his death that war escalated.
Final note: More Vietnam veterans committed suicide at home
than were killed in the war.The same is now true of Iraq, and the numbers are climbing in Afghanistan.
The Rules of Engagement are now so broad—a soldier can kill two farmers with the touch of a button. The remorse usually comes later when that soldier realizes his/her innocence is gone forever and all too often puts a bullet through his or her own head.
“Bye, Bye Miss American Pie,”
Please note comment from a friend of Don McLean's.
I would like to let you know I have forwarded “Apologies to Don McLean” on to Don.
I am sure he will be moved by your blog. In the 70’s Don performed for the
troops at Westpoint Military College – he told the audience that whilst he
opposed the war-he supported to the troops and wanted them to know he was donating
money to the veterans against the war. His 1967 song below reflects on the damage the
war does to a young man.
In Nineteen Sixty Seven the draft caught up
me and my pal Joe went off to war.†
We might find hero's heaven,
but we'd keep the country free.
We would surely win just like before.
Rogers he was on his horse, and Buck Jones drew his gun.
We would surely win
of course when the battle was all done.
Nineteen Sixty Seven I came back
they brought Joe back in plastic on the plane.
Nineteen Sixty Seven
seems so long ago,
but I can't forget my friend or ease my pain.
family may forget him, his children may regret him,
his wife may find another
and go on.
His picture may grow faded and the world he knew gone jaded
as long as I shall live I surely know,
I never will forget my buddy
In Nineteen Sixty Seven, the war was raging on,
our country was
divided and reborn.
Though I was back at home, I had never left
'cause all I got was ridicule and scorn.
This was no place for
hero's now, they all seemed to resent me,
They said "Why did you ever go?" I
said "Because they sent me."
Nineteen Sixty Seven they buried my friend
and I was flashing back while people wept.
I thought of how he saved
us and I watched the land-mine blow,
and I looked down at his dog-tag that I
You'll always be a young man, you always will be smiling,
will be confident and true.
Your picture may grow faded and the world you
knew gone jaded,
but as long as I shall live I surely know,
I never will
forget my buddy Joe.
Long as I shall live I surely know,
I never will
forget you buddy Joe.
P.S.You can get the news rundown mentioned above. To sign up just send an email
In Rather Outspoken, one of broadcast journalism’s elder statesmen reflects on the state of the news business and a career that spans from the glory days to what many of us see as the bitter end.
Soaking up his life’s worth of wisdom compels the reader to ask a familiar question posed to those in power during America’s infancy--a question just as pertinent today.
“What will be the old age of this government (including the fourth branch) if it’s so early decrepit?”
Sadly, Rather’s latest book reminds us that reporters had best be careful when they set about the business of digging up news. And they damn-well better make sure the media corporations for which they work are ready and willing to stand by them. Of course, Rather’s unsettling “push under the bus,” as he describes it, is an instructive case in point.
It’s hard to believe CBS was once the network of the “Murrow Boys” who exposed the fear-mongering of Joe McCarthy and Roy Cohn. The same network who sent a young Rather into the middle of firefights in Vietnam, and managed to make 60 Minutes the most successful news program in history.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. And, I don’t mean Dan Rather.
He has proven that he is and will always be a reporter… no matter the venue. Keep in mind, I am not saying he has always been right, however, in my humble opinion; he has always been earnest, tireless and willing to put his life on the line if it meant delivering news and much-needed context to the American people.
While newsrooms have drastically (and dangerously) cut staff during this era of mega-media conglomerates, the mighty managers have fallen upwards. Upwards of $70 Million is what CBS President Les Moonves made in 2011. That would be okay by me if most of that money was put back into the newsrooms, but it’s not. And Moonves is not likely sitting up at night worried about what the people of American are not being told.
Regarding property, privilege and abuse of power, Thomas Jefferson wrote: “Let our countrymen know, that the people alone can protect us against these evils, and that the tax which will be paid for this purpose, is not more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to kings, priests and nobles, who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance.”
Without saying it flat out, or even having to, Rather Outspoken reminds us that there are precious few reporters still working to fight the powerful and privileged who profit from harming our democracy, our planet, our food supply, our water, our air, our institutions of learning. (This list could go on for quite some time.) And Moonves’ stunning salary reminds us exactly what is valued by the few powerful corporations currently controlling the news. Money talks. And journalists walk, or as Rather points out, “get pushed under the bus.”
Author Richard Brookhiser points out in What Would the Founders Do? “Fortunately, the Founders were living in a knowledge explosion: America had nine colleges and twenty-five newspapers in 1776, serving a population of 2.5 million people....”
Today, often the most important stories come to us from comedians.
Those blessed few reporters left standing are not naïve. They can’t afford to be. We all know that the louder the warning to the American people, the stronger the “push-back.” A former boss and wise newsman used to tell me regularly, “If all sides don’t have some degree of dissatisfaction after your stories, you likely haven’t done a good enough job.”
Today, corporate media minders harbor an unimaginable ambition for wealth and power while maintaining meager ambitions when it comes to informing American citizens. Mostly, they want to protect and keep those corporate commercial dollars flowing. Journalism, as it functions today, certainly is not designed to keep America honest or democracy working as Thomas Jefferson intended.
In Rather Outspoken, we get a not-so-shining example of how this era of corporatized news works to the detriment of democracy.
The key story takes us back to the 2004 Election. That’s when Dan Rather was first betrayed by Viacom/CBS. Just two months before the presidential election, Sumner Redstone—Viacom’s ultimate corporate master—was quoted as saying: “From a Viacom standpoint, the election of a Republican administration has stood for many things we believe in, deregulation and so on…I vote for Viacom. Viacom is my life, and I do believe that a Republican administration is better for media companies than a democratic one.”
That statement reads like a warning to any and all of CBS’ reporters who might be digging into anything critical of George W. Bush or his Administration. And, at the time, that was exactly what Mr. Rather and his ace producer Mary Mapes were doing. They had a story that reflected badly on George W. One that, if accepted by the American people, most certainly would have scuttled George W Bush’s disastrous second term.
In retrospect, the mind boggles to think what might have been different had Viacom/CBS backed Rather and Mapes instead of backing away from them.
The chronicle of Rather’s take-down reeks of Cassius cunning…so Shakespearean is the plot.
Rather and Mapes went running into a house on fire, only to turn around and find those carrying the fire hoses had deserted them. From Rather’s account, it is clear his beloved CBS network had, by the time they’d left him twisting in the wind, devolved into nothing more than a money-grubbing entertainment machine seeking favored status with the powerful. A recent Texas Monthly story backs him up.
Rather Outspoken is a cautionary tale on many levels. And it’s a story that finally explains why Rather and Mapes fought so hard to run their story. And, why in the end, the story ultimately fell flat after a strangely convenient information snafu.
To fully grasp the implications of this sordid tale, you have to put yourself into the “Black Op” line of thinking: if Cassius cannot discredit the story, then he must discredit the storyteller.
Think Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson. Luckily for the “Black Operator,” documents are malleable and always open to question and to opinion. Fame seeking and often mediocre but ambitious “experts” are readily available to discredit them, too. Think Obama and the interminable birth certificate debate. If the Black Op works—the story gets thrown under the bus along with the reporter brave enough to tell it. Oh, how convenient it must have been to have a former CIA chief watching over his presidential son. The CIA building in Langley is not named after Poppy Bush for nothing.
Like any reporter worth his or her salt, Rather has stepped on a lot of toes over the years. The list of people who wanted to see him blackballed and blacklisted stretched all the way from Pennsylvania Ave. to Langley, Virginia. And there were plenty of well-heeled spin doctors and PR people ready and willing to aid and abet the process. As Rather points out, and as many reporters know, there are now huge public relations firms regularly hiring Rovian characters who make their coin leaking false stories. A few of those “secret sources” jokingly refer to The Washington Post as “Pravda on the Potomac.” Why? Because the Post is leakier than a faulty gas hose…and potentially far more damaging. Judith Miller and the New York Times also comes to mind.
By the time the spin doctors get finished, the real story is as twisted as a pretzel, completely unrecognizable and, more times than not, the wagging finger gets pointed right back at the reporters. The messenger becomes the story, not the message. Oh, how Cassius smiles.
When Rather and Mapes were ready to wrap up and air their story of George W. going AWOL from the Texas Air National Guard—George W. was 2 months away from the 2004 election.
It’s important to note here that Rather and the Bushes had butted heads for years. The Bush-AWOL story was the culmination of a long acrimonious history between Rather and the Bush clan. You see, reporters who hail from Texas, like Dan Rather, cut their teeth on the duplicitous-outrageous-red-dirt-throwing, go-for-the-jugular-style of politics that made Texas famous. Lee Atwater, who worked for G.H.W. Bush, was the first to say out loud that in Texas politics…the end justifies the means. (Cheney and Rove both come from Texas politics too.)
Love it or hate it, Texas politics is unique in both its homespun punditry and slaughterhouse savagery. The late Texas governor Ann Richards, who was eventually unseated by George W., stood at the Democratic National convention in 1988 and said, “Poor George. He can’t help it—he was born with a silver foot in his mouth.” Jim Hightower, then-Texas Agricultural Commissioner, said of George W., “He was born on third base and thought he had hit a triple.”
These were the politics that helped define Rather’s bare-knuckle style. He knew the hidden secrets and where the skeletons were long buried. But he was not about to bury the story of George W. running away from a war while telling America’s young men and women to run toward one.
Rather quotes a “highly decorated retired Army colonel” who says soldiers who had risked their lives in Vietnam had long known about George W. Bush going AWOL. It was no secret. A soldier who goes AWOL can be court-marshaled and tried for treason, particularly those unlucky enough not to have a former president and former CIA director as a father.
Rather writes, “For a journalist, the truth always matters and that should be reason enough [to do a story]. The arrogant hypocrisy of it makes this story much more disturbing. A young man born of privilege whose family secured him a spot in the National Guard to avoid military service in Vietnam, and who then walked away for more than a year from even that safe level of obligation, eventually became the commander in chief who ordered tens of thousands of our young men and women, including those in the National Guard, into harm’s way in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Rather continues, “This same young man who gamed the system to evade deployment to Vietnam became a president who did nothing to prevent, halt or disavow the distorted character assassination of his opponent, John Kerry, a decorated Vietnam Veteran.” It all follows the same CIA Black Op pattern. Instead of ignoring the lack of George W’s service in Vietnam, make the opponent appear to be what your candidate really is. Remember the Swift Boat controversy? It implied Kerry, a decorated Vietnam veteran, was a coward.
Back at CBS News, Rather and Mapes’ story was cut-up and shortened without Rather’s permission. He felt crucial back-up information was eliminated. Then the story was relegated to “60 Minutes Wednesday.” An explosive, history altering story like this one got no real promotion, no real back up and was relegated to the second-string broadcast. It is telling. Plus, no one cared enough to push it beyond a bevy of entertainment lawyers and frightened middle-management ladder climbers who put up roadblocks every which way.
Finally, the story aired. It got some traction. And then, as if according to a playbook, the documents were attacked. The same technique used on Mr. Obama (the birth certificate was forged!?). After reading Rather’s book, it’s clear the proof of Bush W’s AWOL was well established. Rather and Mapes didn’t even need the documents.
But the document began the undoing. First, the message was lost, and then came a full-blown attack on the messengers. In the middle of the black storm at Black Rock, (nickname for CBS building in New York) Rather was directed to issue an on-air apology. And he did, basically saying he and Mapes could have always done more. Viacom/CBS followed-up with an “independent” investigation. Heading the “independent investigation” was a well-known Republican and long- time friend of Bush’s daddy. “Beware yon Cassius has a mean and hungry look.”
This is how our politicized and corporate media works today. It has become so common to shoot the messenger, other reporters just fall in line and keep quiet. If Dan Rather can get set up…who are we to think we won’t be targeted too? Better to play it safe and avoid investigative reporting. Trouble is, as Thomas Jefferson pointed out, “Ignorant citizens” cannot support a democracy.
It should also be pointed out that while living in the bubble of big media, it’s hard to see and understand how all this plays out. Now, that Rather is “outside” the mainstream, it has certainly made him wiser and more contemplative about what goes on “inside.” He is now an elder statesman with much to teach. He’s seen all sides of the corporate-political news game and lived through its development. He knows how we got here. We need to listen to him about how best to get out.
Final note: Since “failure to disclose” has become an epidemic by reporters in this country…here is my disclosure.
I sent Dan Rather a book I’d written two years ago. He read it and endorsed it. I’d never met him, but he called to ask what he could do to help the book get published. “Forget that, I said, would you just call my dad in Texas and tell him I’ve not been sitting here doing nothing?”
Rather asked for the number. But, truthfully, even though I’d heard from friends who interned at 60 Minutes that Rather was kind and generous…and still wrote his own stories! I never really expected him to phone home for me.
Sure enough, about twenty minutes later, my father called me.
“You little shit,” he said. “Next time you have Dan Rather call me, at least give me a heads up first.”
While writing Rather Outspoken and endlessly traveling for HDNet, Rather has done some fine reporting. His reports from Gaza come to mind. Nothing like a reporter who has actually been to the places he is talking about.
Stretched so thin with a weekly hour broadcast, traveling and doing most of his own interviews, Rather later ask if I could help with two outside projects. I did. It was an honor.
Hopefully, after reading Dan Rather's new book, the skeptics who refused to see the set ups and betrayals, finally will.
Smear campaigns are now endemic to our twittering world of 24-hour news cycles.
Not smear campaigns by the media, but smear campaigns against the media. Or, at least, the few intrepid reporters still trying to dig deep into stories and come up with something resembling truth. (For a real eye-opener read, Into the Buzzsaw, a stark exposé of the myth of a free press.)
This week we have a stunning and instructive case in point. This time it’s not a corporation targeting a reporter with a negative public relations campaign. No, this time it’s the Pentagon’s propagandists turning their massive messaging machine on the very reporters who dared to criticize it.
We all know that the Pentagon is the largest contractor in the world. Many of their contracts go to propaganda campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. That much the Pentagon admits.
So, USA Today reporter Tom Vanden Brook and editor Ray Locker investigated whether or not those propaganda campaigns were actually helping anyone and how much they cost American taxpayers. Then they wrote a story. But, apparently, the Pentagon didn’t appreciate what the report uncovered.
According to Locker, they found “little proof that the programs work and they [Pentagon officials] won’t make public where that money goes.”
What happened next is all too familiar to any reporter who has tried to investigate public or corporate malfeasance, or any suspected abuse of power. Almost immediately, Vanden Brook and Locker were victimized by a variety of scurrilous online attacks. The plot got thick—very quickly. In what would’ve once been thought to be an ironic twist, but today is just “business as usual,” the reporters became the targets of the very sort of propaganda they reported on in the first place.
Suddenly, fake websites (with inaccurate reports they never wrote) were opened in their names. Twitter accounts and message forums posted lies in transparent attempts to discredit them. Potentially career damaging Wikipedia entries were posted.
This is how it works today, folks.
The town crier—the reporter who really makes an effort to protect you and track spending of your tax dollars—is likely to be the victim of a public smear campaign conducted by those they try to hold accountable.
This is one serious and very important reason Americans are so ill-informed. It’s why many corporate newsrooms “play it safe” by firing the investigative reporters and instead use the money to buy a shiny helicopter to repeatedly report on traffic jams.
After all, who wants the Pentagon after them, right?
Reporting on malfeasance by corporations, on government abuse of power, or on any threat to public well-being, all too often ends with a nasty “take down.” Today, the reporter goes from hunter to hunted faster than you can click a mouse. This is totalitarian regime-type behavior--is it not?
Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1786: “Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.”
Our free presses have been taken over by pay-for-play corporations who make weapons of war (GE receives multi-billion dollar Pentagon contracts and still owns nearly half of NBC) or by companies selling nothing but cross-promotion and infotainment. The USA TODAY story is another good example of why real reporters are rarely allowed to challenge anyone with power anymore.
It takes a bold commitment to journalism to do the investigative reporting done by Vanden Brook and Locker.
But keep in mind the price that they have paid.
To them, “Bravo, and sleep with your eyes open.”
Thank you for trying to open ours.
SFgate/The Huffington Post
She first appeared on my radar after starring in “Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood.” Judd played her Tennessee-Williams type role with an elegant, uniquely Southern neurosis. Throughout the film, human frailty seeped from every pore.
I gained even more respect for her after reading her biography. Getting knocked around in real life has only made her stronger. She’s matured into a rare Velveteen Rabbit.
But that’s not enough for some people.
This week, celebrity-dependent tabloid hucksters did their level best to rip her apart and, in turn, slash and burn a path through the coveted cycle of “news.” It’s all about selling a callow, vile product. Her crime? Apparently, in a recent picture, her face looked “puffy.”
With all that is happening in the world today, is this really someone’s idea of news?
Not only have Americans lost some brain cells over the last decade, but, perhaps more importantly, Americans are quickly losing their manners, too. Dumb and mean is a bad combo. It’s the recipe for cooking up half-baked Third-World warlords. Is that what America is becoming?
If nothing else, our celebrity-obsessed media is getting dumber and meaner every day.
The late, great Edward R. Murrow once said about television, “This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But, it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends ... otherwise, it is merely wires and lights in a box."
Today, the technology is more sophisticated, but the sentiment still applies. As quickly as you can push a button, messages both dumb and mean can cover the internet like pond scum, clouding the murky waters of truth and destroying lives and careers. Is this really what we want to use these present day “wires and boxes” for?
We must ask ourselves who is feeding us this fungal “news?” I don’t know any men who read tabloids. Hello, my fellow women…it’s double blind sexism because the majority of people who read this rubbish, such as the attack on Judd, are other women.
What was written about Judd was one of the millions of examples of sexism we can find on our “wires and a box” each day. Remember, sexism and racism work in exactly the same way. They dehumanize—making it easier for the next person to take the trash talk to the next level. Murrow’s worst case scenario has gone from the television set in the center of our living rooms—to our laptops and on to our so-called “smart phones.”
In the middle of this fake hullabaloo, Ashley Judd did not lash out. With self-assured wisdom and grace, she took the time to remind us how good manners can diffuse a conflict—which is exactly why tit-for-tat network “news” shows and supermarket tabloids never seem to mind their manners anymore. People are paying far too much attention to all this mud-slinging. Cha-ching—let’s hear it for the dumb and mean!
After all, America is a young country, and some days it feels like we are still in our confused, clique-obsessed adolescence. Trouble is, trash talk that used to be contained to the children’s playground is now all around us. It’s becoming the air we breathe. It’s everywhere. The failure to be kind is an epidemic. And we need kindness toward one another now more than ever.
"I have ever believed that had there been no Queen, there would have been no [French] revolution.”
Thomas Jefferson said many things in his wide-ranging autobiography, but he rarely spoke ill of anyone. He made a notable exception in the case of Marie Antoinette. In describing the infamous cake-distributor, he painted a biting portrait of the contemptible Queen:
“Her inordinate gambling and dissipations…her inflexible perverseness, and dauntless spirit, led herself to the guillotine…and plunged the world into crimes and calamities which will forever stain the pages of modern history.”
According to Jefferson, Marie Antoinette treated French citizens as little more than lice under her well-powdered wig…until tax collection time, of course.
Goldman Sachs Chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein pushes a camera lens away as he finishes testimony before the Senate, 04/27/10. (photo: AP)
Enter Goldman Sachs. A modern day financial monarchy, Goldman acts with the impunity once reserved for kings. Controlling legislators. Electing Presidents. Filling the Executive Branch with well-heeled lackeys, manipulating world markets and betting against the welfare of its own clients…the American people. When their equivalent of “tax time” came, they squeezed the peasants for billions of bail-out bucks.
Marie would be proud.
Is there any end to Goldman Sachs greed? Since the Supreme Court recently expanded a ruling that gives corporations the same individual rights as human beings, I’d like to ask Goldman Sachs…human to human…why they have such disdain for the American people and such a lack of love for the country that made them rich? How do their managers manage to skip merrily along, collecting hundreds of millions in bonuses after breaking the backs of this economy?
No apparent remorse.
Good Ol’ TJ described Marie as “proud, disdainful of restraint, indignant at all obstacles to her will and eager in the pursuit of pleasure.”
It’s eerie how much his Marie matches our Goldman.
They certainly showed no restraint in gaming the market. Sachs knew the market would fail, that’s why they bet against it. This is not an opinion, the emails are there.
Sachs clearly knew Americans would lose their homes. They bet “short.” They counted on it all failing. Come on, charming Tin Men. Where is your heart?
Watching the coverage of the congressional inquiry on C-SPAN, I wondered if, perhaps, this was our Marie Antoinette moment.
Charles Dickens wrote of Americans, “they will believe anything but the truth.” Now, the truth stares us in the face. It’s an epiphanic moment in time.
Again, remember that those hearings were not mere commentary. They produced evidence. The emails tell Goldman Sachs’ story. It’s right there in writing, even as their pretty lips and forked tongues tell contrition-free tales and contradictory stories. This bipartisan committee worked like good old fashioned gumshoe reporters. They dug up the proof.
Remember when the leaders of big tobacco raised their hands and swore on the Bible that they didn’t know nicotine was addictive?
This is that moment…double squared.
We cannot afford to ignore it. How many neighbors have had their homes repossessed on your block, Mr. Goldman Sachs? I’ve witnessed two. These neighbors cry as they drive away with the contents of their lives crammed into the back of a car or pick-up truck. One couple was well over sixty. How do they start over?
I’m not saying we should dislike those golden Sachs boys. We don’t have to hate them. They are just doing what they were taught. But what they were taught was wrong. The story of Jesus in the temple comes to mind. It seems applicable. Jesus ran the money changers (bankers) out of the temple. Why? Because the temple is not to be defiled with commerce of any sort. This democracy is our temple. So, please keep your sullied hands off our Congress, our Treasury Department and our President. Stay away from our temples.
Sachs can and will spin the “Dickens” out of the truth. I heard an interview with one Golden Boy yesterday on National Public Radio that made me laugh out loud. His sleight of hand was masterful!
Because of those hearings and because of Goldman Sachs, we are smarter than we used to be.
Thanks again, Goldman Sachs for the Marie Antoinette moment.
The buses finally arrived on October 15th, 2011.
Mostly chartered or owned by churches, they carried hundreds of devoted people from Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Florida. Weary travelers with swollen feet and sleepy eyes gingerly navigated the bus steps. Fifty years of waiting—no need to break a hip now. They’d risked their lives and done their marching. Besides, Dr. King was still dead.
Grandmothers and great-grandmothers blinked into the hot sunlight, many wearing those thick support stockings that clump up around the ankles. They never thought they would see the day when they’d stand on Washington, D.C.’s Capitol Mall to honor their life-long hero.
Slowly craning their arthritic necks…and there it was, big as God.
A thirty foot tall granite statue of Martin Luther King Jr., the civil rights leader who stole their hearts, gave them hope and then, with his sudden assassination, took much of their youthful hope to the grave. But now, stark and fresh against the sky, he seemed almost reborn.
It had been a long journey of fight and flight.
A “wall of inscriptions” surrounded the celebrants in the warm embrace of Dr. King’s words. The first of fourteen quotes came from the “I Have a Dream” speech. Delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, those famous words rang out from America’s national pulpit. That was back when most of these travelers were young and still living in bulwarks of Jim Crow—places like Montgomery, and Selma.
Change is slow. Deadly slow.
“Good spot for Dr. King.”
The elderly lady pointed her cane toward the memorial as she spoke.
“Perfect, symbolic symmetry,” I responded.
And it was. There was Dr. King’s giant likeness not only keeping company with—but standing tall and proud between—Lincoln and Jefferson.
Still pointing her cane in the air…she did a grand sweep around and asked, “Now, honey, which one is Jefferson?”
“There to the right, that’s Thomas Jefferson’s memorial and, of course, to the left of Dr. King’s statue is Abraham Lincoln’s memorial. If you stand ‘just so,’ you can see the Washington Monument, too.”
“Dr. King is so white,” she said.
I’d not noticed the lightish color of the granite before. But she certainly did. Clearly pain, suffering and betrayal made it impossible for her to ignore it. But world paradigms have shifted. Case in point: Dr. King’s “Stone of Hope“ was made in China. That made the next quote we read on the “inscription wall” even more ironic:
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."
Dr. King’s “single garment” quote now spanned the ages and the continents.
“Well, darlin’, see you tomorrow.” The elderly lady smiled.
Her eyes had gone milky. The “tired feel” about her worried me some.
We both knew we’d most likely never meet again, but we’d both be back the next day.
October 16th—the alarm in my hotel sounded at 4a.m. By 5:30am, hundreds stood in line, waiting patiently for the Martin Luther King Jr. “dedication service” to begin some four hours later. Steady patience was not unfamiliar to this crowd. The line circled around and in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Old Abe would have gotten a kick out of that.
Expecting big colorful church hats on the legions of Southern women, picking a good unobstructed view might get tricky. People came early not only to honor Dr. King, but because the line-up of entertainers and speakers was stunning.
Actress Cicely Tyson, Reverends Joe Lowrey and Jesse Jackson
Former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young
Two of Dr. King’s children
Dan Rather—journalism’s firsthand witness
Each speaker and singer reminded us that at times of upheaval, the good and the bad seem disconcertingly close together. The common denominator among the speeches was that there is even more upheaval to come. Especially now, when much of White America finally felt the same disfranchisement endured for so long by Black America.
After finding a coveted seat, the man to my right got up and moved from his.
To my left sat a woman from Atlanta. She was warm and sturdy as a California redwood forest. She held my hand whenever I needed hers. Soon, another woman took the vacated seat to the right. Like the man before her, she did not respond when I said hello.
Finally, President Obama and his family arrived at the end of what felt like a very long and inspirational prayer meeting. Aretha Franklin had just regaled us with one of Dr. King’s favorite gospel songs, and that’s when we all heard the beginning of the chant. It was predictable.
“Four more years. Four more years. Four more years.”
The chant continued for several minutes. The President, still basking in the glow of Aretha Franklin’s gospel song, appeared to be praying. Perhaps he basked, too, in those three encouraging words. Who would ever want his job following the Bush years? Mr. Obama looked twenty years older since getting elected.
I’m not sure what came over me. I’ve been an observer (reporter) all of my adult life. But, on this day, standing in the shadow of a memorial of one man who changed a nation, my heart took control of my head. Loud enough for our half Irish/half African-American president to hear—I began shouting three different words to the rhythm of “four more years.”
“Be like him. Be like him. Be like him!”
Now, the woman who’d refused to look at me, and the man who had moved when I sat down, both examined me closely. Then the damndest thing happened. They started chanting, too. Before long, several rows shouted loud as thunder:
“Be like him, Be like him!”
We screamed ourselves hoarse as more people joined us.
There on the inscription wall Dr. King’s words read:
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that."
We screamed louder.
“Be like him. Be like him!”
…In order to form a more perfect union, establish justice…
“Be Like him. Be like him.”
…Insure domestic Tranquility…
The elderly man, who at first refused to sit by me, now screamed louder.
“Be Like him! Be like him!”
“Do you think the president heard us?” He later asked.
It’s a question Dr. King must have asked himself millions of times. Was anyone listening?
“It’s not called the Stone of Hope for no reason,” I said.
He finally smiled.
In the U.K., news "anchors" are called "presenters." It's high time we make that distinction here in America as well. Those who read the news and interview others are little more than highly paid middle men. Wall Street taught us that middlemen and women do not always work in our best interest. Without reporters putting real boots on the ground, these celebrity anchors are just pushing opinions around... usually the opinions of a tenacious agent, public relations firm, or powerful political consultants.
Consider the erosion in trust this behavior causes. If you are old enough to recall the movie <em>Broadcast News</em>, you will remember William Hurt playing a naïve and ethically challenged anchor. In that movie, Mr. Hurt's character plays a reporter who is reprimanded by a producer played by Holly Hunter. Why was he reprimanded? He faked a reaction to an interview by working up tears for the camera afterwards.
In another scene, Holly Hunter reprimands a photographer who tells a "rebel fighter" to put on his boots in hopes of getting a good "action shot." Hunter's character screams at the photog and his subject, "Stop! We are not here to stage the news."
The message was the same one taught in my newsroom way back when. Do not fake anything while reporting the news. No re-enactments, no pretense, no Hollywood play-acting... just record real events with an understanding of what is happening and why. The only way to do that is to get reporters living, eating, and drinking in the neighborhoods they are reporting from. It's dangerous. America has lots of enemies. Ask Danny Pearl's wife and friends. But the reporting has to get done.
Thomas Jefferson wrote: "The steady character of our countrymen is a rock to which we may safely moor." But, how can we build that national character when much of our news polarizes, simplyfies and exaggerates?
Today, it seems that just as we begin to trust an "anchor" or "reporter," we are, sadly, all too often reminded that we shouldn't.
Most recent case in point -- anchors playing themselves in a movie. This recent trend has notable "presenters" seamlessly crossing over from reading the news into performing a script. In this case, the movie is the <em>Ides of March.</em>
Watching some of those I've come to trust, now reading lines in a movie about political games, the selfishness of celebrity and the benefits of betrayal... well, it was sort of like watching <em>Wag the Dog</em> and the <em>Truman Show </em>at the same time.
So, when are they play-acting and when are they not?
Are they play-acting while pretending to care about war? Are they play-acting when they talk about caring for our troops? How about when they talk about God and religion? Abortion and gay rights? The wedge issues are ratings grabbers, but what about living on the brink of nuclear annihilation? Or living on a planet that seems determined to spit us out? A planet whose inhabitants are willing to destroy the very air, water and food that sustain all forms of life?
Reading a phony script about a phony political campaign in a phony world with phony reporters, it's all just too tiring to buy into. When will America get a broadcast with reporters around the world, each living and breathing in countries of conflict? That is the only way to humanize both our allies and our "enemies." The only way to "Steady our Character."
If we understand conflicts, Americans are less likely to get drawn into them.
The distanced reporter, whether sitting in an anchor chair or riding in a helicopter, is<em> incapable </em>of helping citizens understand the source of anger on the ground, or drawing attention to common denominators among those who would like to believe they have none.
Eventually, those "celebrity" reporters will pave their own road to irrelevancy.
I don't blame the reporters and anchors. Not anymore. I blame their bosses and ultimately the Federal Communication Commission -- for allowing those who should not -- to own our nation's airwaves in the first place.
When NBC is a network and Comcast and GE own NBC -- I suppose it was just naïve to believe stock holders wouldn't push these anchors to be celebrities. Plus reporters willing to risk their lives by putting boots on the ground are expensive and hard to come by.
Perhaps these few corporations, owning America's networks today, are most afraid of real reporters because a real reporter might come to realize that those who sign their pay checks deserve the most scrutiny.
SFGate and ReaderSupportedNews
In the powerful words of Ruby, played by Renee Zellweger in the Civil War movie Cold Mountain, “They call this war a cloud over the land. But they made the weather and then they stand in the rain and say, ‘shit, it’s raining!”’
Well, America, It’s raining.
We all contributed to this American storm of hatred. Every time we laugh at our neighbors politics or filled our minds with a steady diet of cable vitriol. Every time a venomous, anonymous note is posted on line it creates more hate. When we refuse to do our homework and look away at irrefutable, but inconvenient evidence, the consequences include anger and hate. When we send our beloved fathers off to fight under false pretenses we leave orphaned children behind. Generational hate spins round and round. Every time we do not defend the defenseless and call heroes—traitors, there is hatred. Whenever American arms dealers sell weapons to each side of a war, whole countries end up hating us. Every time American casualties of war are mentioned and civilian casualties are not, we create hostility. In a nation swimming in information without context, the only consequence can be more hate. People often hate what they do not understand. Here are some not so fun facts.
America is the largest maker and exporter of arms in the world. American arms manufacturers make war possible around the globe. Yet, we still look like deer caught in the headlights when mass killings occur more and more frequently at home. Is there really a difference from out there and in here?
Hate is as common as dirt these days, and sometimes the common dirt is divided with uncommon adjectives like “Holy” or “Oil rich.” That’s when the real fighting begins.
Look into the eyes of the little girl killed in Tucson. There is no hate. If only the mainstream media would let us look into the big brown eyes of thousands of dark-haired Iraqi and Afghani children just like her. Multiply her life by thousands of children killed by American bombs often packed with depleted uranium, which explodes with an added bonus, a little chemical warfare-cancer-causing kick.
Cold Mountain reprise:—Ada: (played by Nicole Kidman) “All this time, I’ve been packing ice around my heart. How do I make it melt?”
In the midst of our national grief, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for “a credible military option against Iran.” He added that the military action should be headed by the United States. "You have to ratchet up the pressure,” he said.
Cold Mountain--Inman: (Jude Law) “I ain’t getting shot again for some cause I don’t believe in.”
Much like Americans, the Iranian people are living in a country breastfed on secrecy and hate.
Cold Mountain—“See, I think there’s a plan, There’s a design for each and everyone one of us. Bird flies somewhere, picks up a seed, shits the seed out, plant grows. Birds got a job, shit’s got a job, seed’s got a job.”
Right now, our job is to give our children a chance to live in peace.
Joe McCarthy must be turning over in his grave.
After all, who would have thought capitalism and communism would turn out to be such greedy, self-centered bedfellows?
This convenient marriage has its fair share of problems. Right now, though, America is tossing and turning because it’s having a heck of a time doing what it does best—acting sanctimonious. We are shocked and awed when we hear of human rights abuses in oil rich countries. It’s so easy to say, “Let’s get those so-and-so’s!” But what about a country that owns our debt? Like China, for instance. America, who’s your daddy now? Funny how we can’t complain about the dirty dishes when daddy is paying the bills.
According to an investigation airing tonight on HDNet’s “Dan Rather Reports,” America’s de facto godfather is taking a giant leap backwards in the human rights department. In the meantime, the Chinese government makes capitalist hay. While no one seems to be watching, and with America’s “moral superiority” stripped away, China has once again arrested someone whose voice rose in contradiction to the Chinese government.
According to “Rather Reports,” Chinese artist and well-known dissident Ai WeiWei had the nerve to ask his government to tell the truth about just how many of his countrymen died in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. We know now that regulations were lax and buildings shoddy…and that the death toll numbers did not match up. So, Ai, who designed the famous “Bird’s Nest” stadium for the 2008 Olympics, began tallying his own body count and encouraged others to do the same. He honored the dead by listing five thousand names on a Vietnam Memorial-type wall.
When interviewed for Rather, Ai proclaimed, “Change is in the air. It’s in many young people’s hearts. The most powerful tool to this kind of authoritarian society is to let the truth out.”
Despite Ai’s efforts and optimism, China is, according to “Dan Rather Reports,” heading dangerously backwards.
But what country isn’t?
America’s imperial adventures make China’s human rights abuses harder to stop. China knows America is preoccupied with a messy fight for oil, so China isn’t likely to get those morally superior lectures from America any time soon. Americans may, at times, be obnoxiously self-righteous, but America’s leaders, like China’s, know exactly which side their bread is buttered on. And by whom.
Rather reports tonight that there’s a surging nationwide crackdown on Chinese anti-government activists. Apparently, the World Wide Web is scaring the heck out of Communist China. Ai was, and we hope still is, a tweeter. Because of that, he is now either dead or in jail. This is when America would normally step in with some power and moral authority to demand Ai’s release. But, from Guantanamo to extraordinary rendition to Abu Graib, all set against the backdrop of the largest class action suit in American history against China’s primary plastic widget peddler—Wal-Mart, America has lost its leverage and its moral authority, throughout the world and especially toward China.
Where would we shop for goodness sakes?
In tonight’s interview, Ai is asked, “Are you scared of anything? Are you scared of them arresting you or taking you away?”
“Of course,” Ai says, “I have to always every day ask myself…how long can I last if I’m in extreme condition such as jail.”
Now that the world’s human rights bar is set so low, let’s begin by praying Ai is merely in jail. If so, there is still hope that he can come out the other side of this alive and intact. Until he tweets once again, perhaps the citizens of America will do what he did. Start taking names and begin raising our voices to meet the power of our convictions.