The Spirit of Tom Paine

The Spirit of Tom Paine

by Stephen Lendman

We only know about Tom Paine because Thomas Edison
discovered him in the 1920s.  Edison believed he was
our most important political thinker, and it was
essential that his writings and ideas be taught in the
nation’s schools.  It’s no exaggeration that there
might never have been an American Revolution without
this man’s writings that had such a profound influence
on the nation’s founders and masses of people he
reached through one of the few “mainstream” means of
communicating of that period.

Paine was an unlikely man to have had such influence.
He was humbly born and raised in England, was largely
self-educated and decided to come to the colonies in
1774 after meeting Benjamin Franklin in London who
encouraged and sponsored him to do it.  It was a
decision that changed the world, but who could have
imagined it at the time.

Paine only began writing two years earlier when he
took up the cause of excise (or customs) officers
arguing in a pamphlet he wrote they were unfairly paid
and deserved more.  When he came to the colonies he
chose the right place settling in Philadelphia where
he began writing for the Pennsylvania Magazine, later
became its editor and began working on Common Sense in
1776 that he published anonymously.  It became an
instant best-seller in the colonies and in Europe,
made Paine internationally famous and was the most
influential piece of writing of the Revolution.  It
sold as many as 120,000 copies in a population of
about four million (equivalent to a runaway 9 million
copy best seller today) and convinced many in the
colonies to seek independence from the Crown that
happened shortly thereafter.  He followed up with 16
more pamphlets under the title The Crisis, or American
Crisis that were written throughout the war until it
ended in April, 1783.

Paine was profoundly and progressively radical - way
ahead of his time and what passes for “Western
civilization” and mainstream thought today.  He
opposed slavery, promoted republicanism, abhored the
monarchy, and in many ways was the founder of modern
liberalism that Washington and Jefferson called that
“liberal experiment, the United States of America.”
These were the kinds of men who founded the nation -
skeptics of the institutions of power that included
the “kingly oppressions” of monarchs, the church and
the mercantilist corporatism of that time represented
by the dominant predatory giant of its day - the
British East India Company.  Because of the unfair
advantage it got from the Crown (a precursor to the
kind of outrageous government subsidy and legislative
help corporate giants now get), it gained a
competitive edge over colonial merchants that led to
the famous Boston Tea Party in 1773 that helped spark
the Revolution.

Paine had a voice and made it heard in his writings
that were disseminated in one of the mass media
instruments of that era that consisted largely of
pamphlets like his and colonial-era newspapers
beginning with the first ever published called the
Boston News-Letter debuting in April, 1704 before
Paine was born and Ben Franklin’s Pennsylvania Gazette
first published in 1728 that grew to have the largest
circulation of the time and was considered the best
newspaper in the colonies.  Paine got mass exposure in
a way that would be impossible today for his kind of
writing - to promote his radically progressive views
that would make a neocon cringe enough to see to it
those kinds of ideas never saw the light of day in
today’s world run by the institutions of power Paine
and the founders abhorred. 

Think about it.  This was a man who was an
anti-neocon, anti-militarist, and anti-neoliberal
predatory corporatist progressive thinker supporting
the rights and needs of ordinary people.  He developed
a seminal compendium of liberal thinking against those
notions of governance in his book The Rights of Man.
He believed neither governments or corporations should
have rights, only people.  He thought inherited wealth
would be exploited by those having it and would be
used to corrupt governments and allow their heirs the
ability to create dynasties that would result in a new
feudalism.  He promoted progressive taxation believing
everyone should pay them acccording to their income.
He supported enlightened anti-poverty social programs
to provide food and housing assistance for the poor
and retirement pensions for the elderly.  He felt the
best way to build a strong democracy was to provide
financial aid to help young families raise their
children.  He was a strong anti-militarist and wanted
all nations to reduce their armaments by 90% to ensure
world peace. 

He and the founders also wanted the new nation to have
a middle class and understood no democracy can survive
without one.  These enlightened thinkers knew a viable
middle class depends on a public that’s educated,
secure and well-informed and that the greatest danger
to its survival is an empowered economic aristocracy
that would polarize society and destroy the very
democracy they were trying to create, imperfect as it
was.

Imagine if those “radical” ideas were spread in
today’s mass media that sees to it the public never
hears that kind of thinking.  They did in Paine’s day,
and it led to a Revolution that freed us from
monarchal rule and inspired the founders to create a
great democratic experiment in America never tried
before in the West outside Athens in ancient Greece
that only lasted a few decades.  From it we got a
Constitution, Bill of Rights and a system of
governance Lincoln said “was conceived in Liberty, and
dedicated to the proposition that all men are created
equal (in a) government of the people, by the people,
(and) for the people.” 

That could never happen today with the channels of
communication Paine used to electrify and inspire a
nation closed off to prevent their use against the
kind of oppressive authority Paine opposed.  It caused
the founders’ great democratic experiment to be lost
because people no longer know how much the dominant
political class is harming them by serving the
interests of wealth and power and getting plenty of it
for themselves in the process. 

If Paine were here now, he’d lead the struggle against
that kind of system the way he did in his day, but
he’d get little space in the mainstream to help and
would have to settle for smaller audiences available
through the alternative ways to reach the public now.
The free press of Paine’s day is now open only to the
interests of capital who can afford to own one.  And
those espousing “radical” views like Paine’s are
barred from being a part of it.

What the Founders Created, the Dominant
Corporate-Controlled Mass Media Thought-Control Police
Destroyed

In his seminal work Taking the Risk Out of Democracy,
Alex Carey wrote “The twentieth century has been
characterized by three developments of great political
importance: the growth of democracy, the growth of
corporate power, and the growth of corporate
propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power
against democracy.”  Doing it was what 1920s
intellectual writer and dean of his day’s journalists
Walter Lippmann referred to as the “manufacture of
(public) consent” in a democratic system where it
can’t be done by force.  Manufacturing Consent was the
title used by Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman for their
landmark 1988 book that was dedicated to the memory,
spirit and work of Alex Carey. It explained how the
dominant major media use a “propaganda model” to
program the public mind to go along with whatever
agenda serves the interests of wealth and power even
when it’s against the welfare of ordinary people which
it nearly always is.

Today in the US, the major media are nothing short of
a national thought-control police.  They’re owned or
controlled by dominant large corporations (the kind
Noam Chomsky calls “private tyrannies”) grown
increasingly concentrated over time and having a
stranglehold over the kinds of information reaching
the public.  It’s given them and the interests they
represent the power to destroy the free marketplace of
ideas essential to a healthy democracy now on life
support in large measure because of how effective they
are. 

Ben Bagdikian documented their progression in the
various editions of his important book, The Media
Monopoly, most recently updated in 2004 called The New
Media Monopoly.  He showed since 1983, the number of
corporations controlling most newspapers, magazines,
book publishers, movie studios, and electronic media
have shrunk from 50 to five “global-dimension firms,
operating with many of the characteristics of a
cartel” - Time-Warner, Disney, News Corporation,
Viacom and Germany-based Bertelsmann.  Maybe it should
now be a big six after Comcast Corporation acquired
AT&T Broadband in 2001, expanded its cable and other
holdings further since, and is now the nation’s
largest cable operator reaching over 23 million US
households.

These giants have a stranglehold over the dominant
medium most people rely on mainly for what passes for
news, information and entertainment: the national
communication drug of choice - television, that
according to Nielson Media Research the average person
in the US watches about 4.5 hours daily in the 99% of
American households television reaches according to US
Census data and the 82% of households with cable or
satellite TV access according to government and JD
Power and Associates figures.

They don’t get much in return for the time spent even
back when innovative early television comedian Ernie
Kovacs commented on the quality of offerings in his
day.  He said he knew why it’s called a medium -
“because it’s neither rare nor well done,” and noted
media critic George Gerbner harshly critized the
dangers of media concentration in the hands of
corporate giants and the adverse effects of its
programming.  He once said they have “nothing to tell
and everything to sell,” and they subordinate their
mandate to communicate responsibly to their core
function of profit-making. 

And reflecting broadly on the corrupting and
dumbing-down power of the US corporate media, noted
British journalist Robert Fisk once remarked “you
really have a problem in this country.”  Uruguayan
author and historian Eduardo Galeano cites a large
part of the problem saying: “I am astonished….by the
ignorance of the (US) population, which knows almost
nothing about….the world.  It’s quite blind and deaf
to anything….outside the frontiers of the US.”  They
know little inside it as well, and of course, that’s
the whole idea to maintaining control.  Misinform,
distract, and control all ideas and thoughts reaching
the public - it’s the key to “keeping the rabble in
line.”  If done well, it works better than all the
might of the most powerful nation on earth.

The Ugly Record of “The Newspaper of Record”

Nowhere is the problem of the dominant media more
apparent and acute than in what passes for news,
information and punditry on broadcast and cable
television where the programming presented is poor
enough to give pulp fiction a worse name than it
already has.  But special condemnation is reserved for
the so-called “newspaper of record” reporting “All the
News That’s Fit to Print,” at least by its standards
that are disturbing when understood in the terms of
what this publication’s primary mission is - to serve
as the lead instrument of state propaganda making it
the closest thing we have in the country to an
official ministry of information and propaganda.

The “Gray Lady,” as it’s called (“Shady Lady” would be
more apt), has been around since it was founded in
1851 as a “conservative” counterpart to Horace
Greeley’s liberal New York Tribune by Republican
Speaker of the New York State Assembly, Henry J.
Raymond and former banker George Jones.  It was then
taken over by Adolph Ochs in 1896 who became its
publisher until Arthur Sulzberger assumed the reigns
in 1935.  His heirs have maintained it since with
Arthur, Jr. now the publisher as well as chairman of
the whole company that’s publicly traded on the New
York Stock Exchange and that over the years became a
media empire of nearly two dozen other newspapers,
nine local TV stations, a piece of the Boston Red Sox
and other enterprises and 2005 revenue of $3.4 billion
- a long way from its humble beginning when its debut
simply said: “....we intend to (publish) every morning
(except Sundays) for an indefinite number of years to
come.”

The NYT is a pillar of the corporate media and a
member of the “corporate America” community whose
tenets it finds no fault with when they harm the
common good, as it nearly always does.  Nor is it
bothered by its own hypocrisy claiming to be a voice
of moderation or liberal thought when, in fact, it’s
just the opposite on issues that matter most - like
war and peace and the highest crimes of elected
officials it ignores, especially when committed by
Republicans (once publishing the Pentagon Papers
notwithstanding).

The Times plays a crucial role as a loyal servant of
empire and its business establishment.  No other
member of the corporate media has such influence or
reach as its message goes out to the world and is
picked up throughout it in its highest places.  Its
front page is what media critic Norman Solomon calls
“the most valuable square inches of media real estate
in the USA” - more accurately, in the world.  Bluntly
put, the New York Times has unmatched media clout, and
it uses it shamelessly in service to the interests and
ideology of its advertisers.  It also plays the lead
role as an agent of disseminating state propaganda and
is able to have it resonate throughout the corporate
media, including on television where it counts most,
that generally jump on key stories featured on its
front pages and in the columns of its leading
journalists of which it has many and who show up often
in on-air interviews to echo what they write. 

The Times also has a bad habit of being disingenuous
and allowed to get away with it.  While claiming to
maintain a firewall between its business and
journalism sides and between its news reporting and
editorial functions, it does nothing of the sort.  In
that respect, it’s no different than most all other
members of the corporate media club.  All
professionals who work there march in lock step with
the ideology of management with barely any more than a
little wiggle room allowed on the major issues
affecting business or state policy.

There’s a clear line of authority coming down from the
top of the Times hierarchy dictating everything,
especially what’s printed on its pages.  Any Times
writer diverging from this with the temerity to tell a
version of the truth the paper wants suppressed will
end up in the Siberia of obit writing or such if
they’re still even allowed to draw a pay check.
There’s an unposted sign on the front of the Times
building (and throughout the corporate media) all who
work there understand and obey -  All those entering
here give up the right to think and write freely and
will henceforth follow management’s unwritten and
unspoken directives or go find another line of work.

Serving as chief empire-propagandist is an old Times
tradition going back decades and best remembered
during the prime years of James “Scotty” Reston - its
best and most famous journalist who walked easily in
the halls of power and was consulted by its denizens.
That, of course, is the problem as cavorting with
those in power throws any objectivity about them out
the window and makes it easy for those having it to
get away with almost anything and not have to worry
about the dominant media holding them to account.

The Judith Miller saga is a prime example but just the
latest incarnation at least up to the time her antics
got her in trouble, and she ended up being canned.
Judith had lots of predecessors whose names people
forget (Claire Sterling being one during the Reagan
years), but they served most prominently throughout
the cold war years especially when the Times was, and
still is, a devout advocate of the home country’s
notion of “free market” capitalism (of the predatory
kind), a flag-waving supporter of its imperial wars of
conquest, and a committed enemy of the “evil empire”
until it ended and any other country not willing to
play by US-imposed rules - Iran under Mossadegh,
Guatemala under Arbenz, Cuba under Castro, Chile under
Allende, Nicaragua under the Sandinistas and Ortega
(now reincarnated), Venezuela under Hugo Chavez, and
Bolivia under Morales among others soon to include
Ecuador under Rafael Correa when he takes office as
the country’s populist president in January.  The
paper also works closely with the CIA going back to
when Allen Dulles ran it under Eisenhower with some of
its supposedly independent foreign correspondents in
the agency’s employ or engaged with it.

The Times, of course, played the lead media role in
taking the nation to war after the 9/11 tragedy that
got Judith Miller sacked once her lying for the state
was exposed.  For many months leading to the March,
2003 Iraq assault and invasion, the NYT’s front pages
screamed with daily disingenuous reports about the
so-called WMDs “the newspaper of record” knew didn’t
exist because years earlier it reported the story. 

In August, 1995, Hussein Kamel, Saddam’s trusted
son-in-law and head of Iraq’s weapons industries,
defected to the West and took with him crates of
secret documents on the country’s weapons programs
including its so-called WMDs that included no nuclear
ones.  He was debriefed by US intelligence agencies
and the UN, told all, and made headlines around the
world including on the front pages of the NYT.  It all
went down the “memory hole” in the run-up to March,
2003 with the false and misleading reporting in the
Times led by Judith Miller’s reports who was
practically deified for her writing that all turned
out to be lies.

Now Judith is gone, but her style of reporting remains
the way things are done on the NYT’s pages, especially
the front one.  After playing the lead cheerleading
role taking the nation to war based on falsely
reported threats, the Times is at it again.  Back in
2003 and earlier, the primary reason for war was the
claim Saddam had developed WMDs and was a threat to
use them.  The paper then trumpeted top administration
(unproved) charges that US intelligence had evidence
Saddam stockpiled chemical and biological weapons, was
concealing them, and was seeking nuclear ones - all
untrue. 

Now with the ruse exposed, the Times is trying to
rewrite history claiming in September “the possibility
that Saddam Hussein might develop ‘weapons of mass
destruction’ and pass them to terrorists was the prime
reason Mr. Bush gave in 2003 for ordering the invasion
of Iraq.”  Clear evidence he had them pre-war is now
only a “possibility” according to Times-think. This
kind of revisionism is standard practice at the NYT
and a prime example of the “the newspaper of record’s”
disservice to its readers wanting the truth.  That’s
impossible to get on the pages of the New York Times.

The Times is also a loyal supporter of all things
business and the elitist community whose interests
nearly always conflict with the public welfare the
paper falsely wants its readers to think it supports.
It doesn’t, and it shows up on its pages all the time.
It was clear from its contempt for working people
with its staunch support for NAFTA that’s caused the
loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs in the three
countries signed on to it including so many higher
paying ones in the US.

Earlier it was late or tepid on major stories like the
Savings and Loan scandal in the 1980s caused by excess
banking deregulation and concessions to Wall Street,
the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI)
“$20 billion-plus heist” it pulled off unnoticed until
it messed up and got caught, and since March, 2003 its
failure to report on the misuse of many billions of
taxpayer dollars companies like Halliburton and
Bechtel profited hugely from in Iraq and Afghanistan
improperly and still do despite Bechtel having gone
off to new predatory ventures.  And that’s besides the
many billions more in the grand theft pulled off by
the defense establishment in its collusion with the
Pentagon in the business of waging war that’s so
profitable for the legions of weapons makers and their
suppliers for the blood money they get from it - from
us through our misspent or stolen tax dollars.

The Preeminent Newspaper Dedicated to the Interests of
Business and Industry - The Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal began publishing in 1889 seven
years after its parent Dow Jones & Company was founded
in 1882 by Charles Dow, Edward Jones and Charles
Bergstresser whose name never became prominent maybe
because it wasn’t as catchy as the other two.  For
many years, the Journal had the largest newspaper
circulation in the country until the forgettable USA
Today overtook it.  What USA Today didn’t overtake was
this paper’s influence that reaches virtually all
those holding positions of power and prominence in
business and government and many beyond.  It’s news
pages also put out the kind of information its
high-powered readers need to know and is usually out
in front breaking stories regarding happenings in
business and industry providing enough context to
explain it well. 

It’s quite another story on the Journal’s editorial
page where hard right opinion ideology nearly always
trumps any attempt to stick to the facts, but it’s red
meat for its adherents.  The paper states its
editorial philosophy up front as favoring “free
markets” and “free people” that comes down to
supporting all things good for the corporate community
and all state policy doing the same, including waging
wars of aggression when they’re good for business as
they always are as long as they go as planned, and
even if they don’t up to the point where policy
followed looks to have more of a future profit
downside than the bottom line benefits of the moment.


Journal editorial writers also take a particularly
belligerent stance against foreign leaders following
an independent course, forgetting “who’s boss,” and
being unwilling to serve our interests ahead of those
of their own people.  Case in point, and any of
several stand out prominently - Iran, Syria, North
Korea and Venezuela under Hugo Chavez who on December
3 won a landslide reelection victory (greater than any
in US history after 1820 when elections here became
partisan contests regularly) under a model democratic
process lauded by hundreds of independent observers
from around the world (including the Carter Center in
the US) and shaming the way elections are run in this
country that reek with taint and fraud. 

But here’s what editorial writer Mary Anastasia
O’Grady (whom this writer has clashed with before) had
to say about it in her post-election December 8
article titled “The Best Election Money Could Buy,” a
clear example of yellow journalism and disinformation
dripping with the kind of vitriol and venom O’Grady
excels in.  She claims “Chavez supporters had more
than once shot and killed unarmed civilians with
impunity,” but doesn’t mention a shred of evidence to
prove it because there is none and it never happened.
She speaks of Chavez’s “feared National Guard
pour(ing) out of a military vehicle….and armies of
informal government enforcers known as chavistas (this
writer is proudly one as it means someone supporting
Hugo Chavez and his enlightened democratic and social
policies)” on another side of a street.  She refers to
their presence as “lawlessness” ignoring the fact that
the military was there in case of disorder, (there was
none) and the chavistas were massed on the streets in
a post-election joyous celebration unlike anything
ever seen in the US.  O’Grady likely couldn’t
understand the people of Venezuela love their
president and went to the streets to show it.

O’Grady continued saying she “never believed Fidel
Castro’s ‘mini-me’ would be defeated….even though
there is scant evidence that a majority of Venezuelans
back his socialist revolution.”  Did this woman just
arrive from another planet?  The independent
pre-election polls gave Chavez an insurmountable 30
point edge, and the final results independently judged
free, fair and open gave him a smashing nearly two to
one victory over his only serious opponent
representing the interests of wealth and power the
great majority of people in the country rejects that
shows a clear endorsement of Chavez’s Revolution.

Nonetheless, O’Grady wasn’t deterred claiming (with no
evidence, of course) “a Chavez victory could (only) be
had ‘legally’ through a combination of coercion,
manipulation and the liberal use of state funds” -
again editorial bombast that’s totally unfounded.
O’Grady says nothing about opposition candidate Manuel
Rosales, chosen in Washington, getting millions of
US-funded covert dollar support, something that never
would be tolerated here by a foreign government in a
US election or a foreign corporation.  She cites the
“independent electoral watchdog group known as Sumate”
for another phony complaint, again failing to disclose
this organization was formed in 2002, is funded by the
Bush administration to subvert the democratic process
in Venezuela, and was involved in the signature
collection process in the run-up to the failed recall
election in 2004 trying to unseat Hugo Chavez.

The rest of O’Grady’s piece drips with the same kind
of agitprop disinformation only a hard right
ideologue, like this woman whose background is from
Wall Street, would love.  The fact that what she
writes has no bearing on the truth is of no
consequence to her or the other writers on the
Journal’s editorial page.  Their job isn’t to tell it.
It’s to serve the interests of wealth and power, and
the only way to do that well is to make sure readers
never know how harmful those interests are to the
great majority of people everywhere including a fair
number of them who read the Wall Street Journal, but
for their own sake should stay away from its editorial
page and its shameless servants of empire like
O’Grady.

The Tainted Record in Public “Non-Commercial” Spaces

Today in the mainstream there are no safe havens.  All
major print publications are corporate owned or
controlled as are the on-air media including the two
main supposed “non-commercial” alternatives
established as independent, non-governmental,
commercial-free public spaces now as much under the
control of the interests of wealth and power as the
media giants.  Today so-called National Public Radio
(NPR) and Public Broadcasting (PBS) are beholden to
the interests of capital because that’s where so much
of their funding comes from.

The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) was founded by
the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 to provide a
programming diversity alternative to the commercial
broadcasters, began operating in October, 1970 and was
required to follow a “strict adherence to objectivity
and balance in all programs or series of programs of a
controversial nature.”  At the time, it was stipulated
the federal government was prohibited from influencing
its programming content, but that was controversial
from the start as PBS operated with federal funding
making it a target whenever it took on an issue
critical of the mouth that was feeding it.

Today corporate donors make up a substantial
proportion of PBS funding and with it claim and get
the right to decide what programming is run and what
it may contain along with Republican allies in the
administration and Congress who have plenty to say and
put their man, Kenneth Tomlinson, in charge of the
Corporation for Public Broadcasting to see they got it
when George Bush appointed him as chairman of the CPB
for a two-year term beginning in September, 2003 after
he was earlier appointed to its board by Bill Clinton
and confirmed in September, 2000. 

This was a clear case of putting the fox in charge of
the hen house forcing even the administration-friendly
New York Times to report a front-page story in May,
2005 that evidence was mounting that Tomlinson
pressured PBS officials to produce more conservative
programming and purge shows considered more liberal.
It prompted an unnamed senior FCC official to tell the
Washington Post the CPB chairman “is engaged in a
systematic effort not just to sanitize the truth, but
to impose a right wing agenda on PBS….almost like a
right wing coup.”  In other words, to make sure the
ideology in PBS programming was no different than the
way the commercial giants see things.

This should have come as no surprise with someone like
Tomlinson in charge.  He had a conflict of interest
based on his prior employment where he was director of
US propaganda for Voice of America (VOA) from 1982 -
84, was then appointed to the Broadcasting Board of
Governors (BBG), served as its chairman and in that
capacity oversaw most government propaganda broadcasts
to foreign countries including by VOA, Radio Free
Europe, the Arab language Alhurra and Radio Marti
beamed into Cuba that combined reaches 100 million
people worldwide. 

He was also ethically tainted at the time according to
a State Department inspector general report for having
“used his office to run a horse-racing operation and
had improperly put a friend on the payroll” and
without board approval signed off on $245,000 of
invoices for questionable purposes.  He never should
have been put on the CPB board or gotten the top job
there and now no longer does after being forced to
resign in November, 2005 for trying to politicize the
agency with his hard line tactics and unethical
practices - something that’s become standard practice
on Capitol Hill under Republican control. 

Sadly, things haven’t improved as one Republican
ideologue replaced another with the Bush appointment
of Cheryl Halpern to be CPB chairperson.  And on
November 14, 2006, the Tomlinson record was no
obstacle preventing George Bush from renominating him
as chairman of the BBG for a term to run until August
13, 2007 despite his nomination having been stalled in
the Senate because of allegations of misconduct.  So
far, no charges have been brought against Mr.
Tomlinson, and it’s doubtful they will be when the
110th Democrat-controlled Congress takes over in
January.  On Capitol Hill, the climate and culture of
corruption is bipartisan, long-standing, and it
doesn’t take long for the new party in power to engage
in the same kinds of unethical practices that drove
out the former one.  It just takes a while for them to
get caught at it.

The situation is no better at National Public Radio
(NPR) that long ago abandoned the public trust it was
sworn to uphold when it was founded in 1970 as in
independent, private, non-profit member organization
of public radio stations in the country.  It’s as
tainted and corrupted as its television counterpart
and now also gets a substantial proportion of its
funding from corporate donors demanding influence,
like the kind a $225 million behest can buy.  That’s
the amount gotten from the estate of the late Joan
Kroc, widow of Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald’s
Corporation that never needs to worry about an
unfriendly report on NPR’s airwaves no matter how
egregious its behavior, and there’s plenty of it to
reveal that stays suppressed in all the major media
including on NPR, the “peoples’ radio.”

Despite its mandate to be unbiased and serve the
public interest, NPR steers clear of that in its
one-sided kind of “journalism.” It’s careful to shy
away from all controversial topics that may be
sensitive to corporate interests that include those
providing it funding support or might wish to like
Archer Daniels Midland, Monsanto and Walmart that
already do.  It’s also “respectful” of whichever party
is in power with Republican administrations getting
special deference as they were from 1994 until the
Democrats took control of the Congress in the
November, 2006 mid-term elections.  Even George Bush’s
most extreme transgressions can’t get NPR’s ire up
enough to report accurately on them.

That’s made even clearer when it’s known what kind of
man it has in charge - current president and CEO Kevin
Klose.  Like the CPB during the Tomlinson tenure, so
too is NPR run by a man who used to be the director of
all major worldwide US government propaganda
dissemination broadcast media including VOA, Radio
Liberty, Radio Free Europe, Radio Free Asia, Worldnet
Television and the anti-Castro Radio/TV Marti.  And
like Tomlinson, it made him an ideal choice for a
comparable job at NPR, the “peoples’ radio,” that like
the “peoples’ television” and its flagship Lehrer News
Hour, never met a US-instigated war it didn’t love,
support and report endless supportive propaganda about
while suppressing all news unfriendly to the US empire
and its business interests. 

So far as its known, however, Mr. Klose hasn’t been
accused of the kinds of activities attributed to his
former CPB counterpart, staying free from the taint
that forced Mr. Tomlinson to resign.  That aside, it’s
had no positive impact on NPR’s programming that’s
just as committed as PBS to serving the interests of
wealth and power feeding it while ignoring the public
trust despite the considerable funding it gets from
that source from frequent on-air fund-raising efforts
it has no right or justification asking for.

The Passing of Two Noted War Criminals - A Brief Study
in Contrasts

The passing of two noted figures now making daily
headlines is one illustration of how corrupted the
dominant US media is in their reporting of news and
information only exceeded by the crimes of state and
predations of corporate giants they conceal and
distort because they’re one of the serial offenders
and must portray the illusion of a free society
guaranteeing liberty and justice for all when, in
fact, only those of privilege get those rights.

So on December 31 the New York Times reported
“Thousands Honor (former president Gerald) Ford (who
died on December 26 at age 93 lying in state) Under
(the) Capitol Dome.”  We can read effusive eulogies
extolling the common man who “didn’t ask to be
president….he didn’t have an agenda….He was a good
man, an honorable man….(and) We owe him a debt of
gratitude….He was….a decent man….called on at
the right time to serve the country when we needed it
most.”

Baloney, and so much for illusions.  Now a dose of
hard reality about a man who rightfully should be
condemned and not praised for his time in office and
only less than others preceding and following him
because his short two and one-half year tenure caused
less harm that was still a considerable amount. 

In one sense, Gerald Ford was an interregnum president
given the job to calm the public’s collective ire and
angst from years of abuse of the public trust under
Richard Nixon including the horrors of aggressive war
in Vietnam he allowed to go on and secretly expanded
for a time while falsely committing to end it
honorably.  No war begun dishonorably can ever end
with honor, and Gerald Ford never even tried doing it.
All he could do was accept defeat and cut and run
leaving behind a legacy of Southeast Asia poisoned by
illegal toxic chemicals and turned to wasteland with
several million dead he never even apologized for.
Imperial powers never confess sorrow.  It might be
taken for a sign of weakness or upset future plans to
do it again as Iraqis and Afghans can testify to.

Ford was also falsely portrayed in the media as “Mr.
Nice Guy” hiding the fact he was just another
privileged white American male elected to Congress,
spent a quarter century there and ended up as the
nation’s first unelected president (although legally,
unlike the current incumbent) replacing the man forced
to exit the job in disgrace to avoid being thrown out
of it in even greater humiliation. 

Little or nothing good can be said about Gerald Ford
whose assignment was to calm the nation’s collective
nerves with lots of disingenuous corporate PR and
media makeover help.  His tenure was marked by a
distinct lack of vision or any courage and conviction
to move in a new direction and away from a tainted
past he was part of that was never acknowledged in the
media to conceal his time in the Congress supportive
of two major Southeast Asian wars of aggression
causing massive death and destruction unreported and
all the other crimes of state committed during his
years in public office he might have stood against but
never did.

Consider further who served under Gerald Ford that
explains much about what his administration stood for:
his Secretary of State was Henry Kissinger, George HW
Bush was CIA Director, Donald Rumsfeld the Secretary
of Defense, his White House Chief of Staff was Richard
Cheney, and his council of economic advisors chairman
was Alan Greenspan in training to move to the banking
cartel owned and controlled Federal Reserve where he
continued for 18 years betraying the public trust to
enrich the financial community he served.  With that
kind of team surrounding him, what possible good could
have come from Ford’s tenure.  None did, but you’d
never know it hearing the kind of undeserved effusive
praise pouring out of the mouths of everyone allowed
air time on the major media while suppressing all the
negatives deserving condemnation unaired and unspoken
in the flow of disingenuous legacy-building of the
man, his life and presidency.  In the land of
media-created illusion, could anyone have expected
otherwise.

Gerald Ford revealed was a man who as appointed
vice-president let himself fall under the spell of
general and future Reagan Secretary of State Alexander
Haig who cut him a deal to become president in return
for committing the unforgivable act (some rightfully
call a crime) of pardoning Richard Nixon saving him
from having to be held to account for his crimes in
office.  He also gave Henry Kissinger authority to
allow Indonesia’s president Suharto the right to
commit genocide against the defenseless people of East
Timor killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people
only wanting their freedom from imperial aggression
and their right to live peacefully in their own land.
Earlier he was an important figure as one of the seven
Warren Commission members chosen to conceal the real
cause of John Kennedy’s death in 1963 unrevealed, of
course, to this day.  Save your praise and tears for
this man now departed.  He deserves none of either.

Neither does the other fallen leader whose fate was
the hangman’s rope that may have been warranted but
not by the process that got it to his neck or the
illegal authority claiming power to put it there to
have him hang from it until dead.  Few will mourn
Saddam Hussein but even despots deserve a better fate,
as do all people, but won’t ever get it when the law
judging them is what the US hegemon says it is -
nearly always violating international statutes and
norms that was clearly true in how justice was denied
Saddam. 

But that wasn’t the way the Wall Street Journal’s
January 2 editorial page portrayed it with their lead
opinion commentary titled: Justice for a Tyrant.  It
ended contemptibly claiming “3,000 Americans (gave)
their lives in (a) noble mission (ridding) the world
of a man who might have killed hundreds of thousands
more.”  The only truth in the editorial was the
statement that “Too few of the world’s mass killers
face such a reckoning,” but the Journal writer failed
to mention where the worst of the lot are now
domiciled.

The fallen Iraqi leader had the misfortune not to have
been from that favored home country of the WSJ and
thus was subjected to its victor’s justice that
guarantees none at all to its victims.  He was
captured and brought to trial by the US occupier’s
illegally constituted court (giving kangaroos a bad
name), called the Supreme Iraqi Criminal (Hanging
Court) Tribunal (SICT) that had no authority under
international law to conduct the proceeding.  The
whole process was a funded and scripted in Washington
sham with a known guilty as charged verdict in
advance, no due process allowed, and a videotaped trip
to the gallows disgracefully played out round the
world on national television stopping only short of
viewing the trap door sprung but leaving little to the
imagination.

Not a word was heard in the dominant US media about
top Bush administration officials and earlier ones
who not only conspired, supported and funded Saddam at
his worst, but their crimes overall, then and now, far
exceed anything the Iraqi leader was forced to pay for
in a disgraceful drawn out public spectacle trial and
execution played out for full political advantage
amounting to none at all and likely was botched by the
stupidity and audaciousness of doing it during the
time of the Hajj, or sacred pilgrimage, to Mecca and
on Eid al-Adha, or feast of the sacrifice - the
holiest day of the Muslim year.  In a final irony at
this deplorable moment, awaiting his imminent
inglorious death amid disgraceful taunts by his
hangmen, the world saw an image of this brutish man,
reciting verses from the Koran, as the most dignified
man at his own execution.

Saddam killed many thousands of his countrymen and
women and deserved to be held to full account for them
lawfully.  But the only law afforded him was that of
victor’s justice also guaranteeing crimes far greater
than his went down the “memory hole” as though they
never happened allowing those guilty to be shamelessly
lauded as heros played off in sort of
point-counterpoint fashion in the case of the two most
recent fallen war criminals neither of whom got the
justice they deserved.

Video News Releases (VNRs) - Fake News Masquerading
As the Real Thing

VNRs are fake news reports allowing
corporate-sponsored pre-packaged propaganda to be
aired on television masquerading as real news without
the public knowing it’s being deceived.  They’re
produced by corporate PR firms for their clients and
are widely distributed and accepted by TV stations
that get to fill air time without the cost involved to
produce their own material.  It’s a win-win-win
situation for VNR producer, the corporations getting
free airing of their messages and the media outlets
getting free material with the cost saving going right
to their bottom line.  The only loser is the public
getting conned and not knowing it.  VNRs also have
their ANR (audio news releases) counterpart
distributed to radio stations making them part of the
scheme to defraud the public as well and pocketing
profits from doing it.

Also in on the con is our own government producing its
own pre-packaged fake news getting widespread airing
on TV and radio to go along with all the
media-produced material out in front in their
shameless cheerleading for whatever agenda the
administration in power is pursuing and needs to lull
the public into believing it’s for the common good
which it never is.  The Bush administration has been
aggressive in the use of phony “ready-to-serve” news
reports at times blanketing the airwaves with them
from 20 or more federal agencies selling everything
from war by the Department of Defense, supposed
“benefits” of big media by the FCC, and the Healthy
Forests Initiative (HFI) by the Interior Department
hiding the destructive corporate clear-cutting agenda
endorsed by George Bush.

In addition, the Bush White House put journalists on
the federal payroll to write positive news stories on
a range of issues like portraying the administration
as “vigilant” and “compassionate” and promoting
government programs like the sham Medicare Part D
prescription drug plan that’s a consumer rip-off for
most seniors and a bonanza for the big drug companies
that can charge any price they want under it.  Also
fraudulently promoted has been the benefits of Bush’s
No Child Left Behind program for the Department of
Education that’s one more government-sponsored plan to
wreck public education and hand it over to private
corporations for profit starting with forcing school
districts wanting to qualify for federal funding to
use corporate-subsidized and mandated tests that are
worthless and harmful to learning as they prevent
schools from concentrating on teaching.

Again, it’s a win situation for all the parties
involved as the federal government promotes its
corporate-friendly programs, the industries wanting
them get the benefits, the PR firms and journalists
“on-the-take” are well-compensated, and the media
outlets get free material to fill their time slots.
Only the public loses including having to pay to be
deceived with our own federal tax dollars and now gets
to be subjected to thousands of fake corporate and
government-sponsored news reports annually comprising
an alarming percentage of what media outlets air
pretending the material is real news and information.


The sham persists and grows, and the FCC, in charge of
the public airwaves, is part of the scheme as it’s
doing virtually nothing to stop it although it’s
mandated to do it under the Communications Act.  In
its April, 2005 Public Notice, the agency stated
“whenever broadcast stations and cable operators air
VNRs, licensees and operators generally must clearly
disclose to members of their audiences the nature,
source and sponsorship of the material.”  It doesn’t
happen, the FCC doesn’t step up to do it, and the Bush
administration disagrees with its agency’s stated but
not followed mandate regarding its own pre-packaged
propaganda claiming these VNRs are permissible as long
as they’re “informational.” Left unsaid is whether or
not the “information” serves the public or some other
interest or is fact or fiction.  From the
well-documented record of the Bush White House, it
would take a giant leap of faith to believe whatever
it puts out is anything but the latter. 

Political Propaganda to Program the Public Mind

Australian-born Alex Carey, cited above, produced
innovative work documenting how political and
corporate propaganda began and grew more sophisticated
through the years.  It was first used in the US
effectively during WW I and the administration of
Woodrow Wilson who was reelected in 1916 on a platform
promise of: “He Kept US Out of War.”  No less
disingenuous than most other politicians, Wilson began
planning to enter it in 1917 and did it by
establishing the Committee on Public Information under
George Creel to orchestrate a public campaign that was
able to turn a pacifist nation into raging
German-haters resulting in the Congress overwhelmingly
declaring war on Germany in April, 1917. 

The campaign so impressed the business community it
recruited Edward Bernays, who worked with Wilson and
was a nephew of Sigmund Freud, to develop its
propaganda messages to shape public opinion.  Bernays
and Ivy Lee pioneered the modern public relations
industry and along with political scientist Harold
Lasswell and others helped develop the propaganda
techniques used so effectively today by government,
the corporate media and their PR allies. 

They helped develop the ways business and government
program the public mind (the ones Walter Lippmann
called “the bewildered herd”) by manipulating
mainstream journalism and discourse to convince people
to support their agenda even at the expense of their
own well-being.  It’s done the way Lasswell explained
saying “More can be won by illusion than by coercion
(and) Democracy has proclaimed the dictatorship of
(debate), and the technique of dictating is named
propaganda.” 

Bernays added: “It is impossible to overestimate the
importance of engineering consent….(it’s) the very
essence of the democratic process.”  He explained
further in revealing detail the way things are done
now by today’s master mind-manipulators: “The
conscious and intelligent manipulation of the
organized habits and opinions of the masses is an
important element in a democratic society.  Those who
manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute
an invisible government which is the true ruling power
of the country.  We are governed, our minds are
molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested,
largely by men we have never heard of.  This is a
logical result of the way in which our democratic
society is organized.”

Thought Control by the Corporate Media in A Democracy

Engineering consent is also the essence of its
corruption as today giant corporations control our
lives, how we’re governed and the information we
receive that influences how we think and act.  It’s
the realization of Lincoln’s fear when he wrote: “I
see in the near future a crisis approaching that
unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of
my country….corporations have been enthroned and an
era of corruption in high places will follow, and the
money power of the country will endeavor to prolong
its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people
until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the
Republic is destroyed.”  He left out the part about
future governments colluding with the country’s “money
power” making it easier for them to benefit at the
public’s expense and be able to destroy the republic
in the process as Lincoln feared.

Lincoln wrote those words before the collusion began
post-Civil war in the first gilded age of the “robber
barons” who were pikers compared to the current crop
in an era of “globalization” and
“the-anything-goes-under-the-administration-of-George
Bush.”  It was long before technology made mass
communication possible and the privately-owned media
could gain the kind of reach and influence it now
enjoys.  It was also before the Supreme Court in 1886
gave corporations the right of personhood granting
them their long sought after same constitutional
rights as people without the responsibilities,
enhancing their power greatly, and allowing them to
become the dominant institution of our time with the
help of the major channels of communication they own,
control and use to their advantage.

With them, they control the free flow of information
assuring it’s compatible with the interests of wealth
and power but that ends up being harmful to the public
welfare that gets more marginalized as corporate
dominance and influence grow.  It’s left democracy on
life support and allowed giant corporations, including
the huge media ones, to co-opt government at all
levels and do it by keeping the public uninformed on
the most vital matters it needs to know about to keep
democracy healthy and vibrant.  The media gatekeepers
make sure that doesn’t happen by suppressing all the
ugliness it wants concealed, falsely portraying a
picture of society in glowing terms and failing to let
on its mission is to serve the interests of capital,
something these corporate giants are rich in and want
a lot more of.

It’s long past the time needed to jump-start a process
to fight back - to rebuild democracy allowed to wither
and is now somewhere between life support and the
crematorium.  It should start with a national debate
on the most pressing issue of our time that must be
resolved before anything else can be - real media
reform, reclaiming our space and giving the public
more control of the airwaves it owns, breaking up the
giants, creating more competition and diversity in the
commercial spaces, allowing the free flow of
information now denied in the mainstream, and creating
more open and expanded non-profit/non-commercial
alternatives including online where the free
interchange of ideas flourishes but is endangered as
discussed below.  Without all this, no democracy is
possible. 

It means stanching the corroding effect of a culture
of out-of-control commercialism and the glorification
of wars against threats that don’t exist and waged for
conquest and profit.  It means reigning in the media
giants allowed to go unchecked and helped by friendly
legislation that must be halted and reversed.  It’s up
to those on the left and the public en masse to get on
this issue - to understand how central it is to all
others including war and peace and the health of the
state, and to realize how endangered we are by the
predations of giant corporations, including the media
ones, in league with a rogue government that must be
contained to have any chance to save a republic on
life support, if that.

The challenge ahead is to halt this assault on the
public welfare and sensibility, free society and
mainstream journalism from the control of capital and
a government serving it, reclaim the public airwaves
and mass communication systems and give it back to the
citizenry and honest journalists who’ll work for all
the people and not just those holding the “commanding
heights” of business and government. There’s nothing
sacrosanct about the current media structure that’s
the result of decades of big media-friendly laws,
regulations and huge government subsidies all crafted
secretly by the industry without public knowledge,
participation or consent and gotten under
administrations of both parties.  Changing this is a
tall order, and one needing a great vision to drive
it, especially in the face of the powerful forces
working against it in business and government. They’re
the enemy, and only mass people-action can and must
stop them.

The Battle to Save the Last Frontier of Press Freedom

Today another major threat looms that will move things
in the wrong direction if it succeeds.  It’s the
battle to maintain internet neutrality that’s being
debated in Congress, and will resume in the new one in
January, as part of several vital pieces of
legislation that will decide how it turns out.
Included is S 2360, the Internet Nondiscrimination Act
of 2006 that prohibits blocking or modifying data in
transit other than spam and illegal content.  In June,
the House rejected HR 5273, the Network Neutrality Act
of 2006, that would have denied phone and cable
companies the right to price at their discretion to
sell favored treatment for content in their spaces at
higher rates.  It also passed HR 5252, the
Communications Opportunity, Promotion, and Enhancement
(COPE) Act, that will give these companies the freedom
to choose wealthier customers by eliminating the
current requirement to serve low income ones as well.

The COPE Act is now in the Senate, and internet
neutrality advocates are fighting to defeat it saying
its passage will compromise the internet space
irrevocably by giving the cable and phone giants a
monopoly on high-speed cable internet.  This will
effectively deny low-income households broadband
access and allow these companies the ability to
monitor and filter content as they choose.  Also under
consideration is S 2917, the Internet Freedom
Preservation Act of 2006, that amends the
Communications, Consumer’s Choice and Broadband
Deployment Act of 2006 introducing more rigid
net-neutral standards including a ban on the blocking
of lawful content and on quality-of-service deals
between network and content providers.

The stakes on how all this turns out are enormous to
the freedom of the one remaining open public space
(along with the few remaining small independent
publishers) it’s crucially important to preserve
before anything more can be done to reclaim more of
what rightfully belongs to us all.  Supporters of net
neutrality want legislation and regulation mandating
digital democracy to keep the internet free from the
corrupting influence of corporate control working
against the public interest in pursuit of profit.
They want it to mandate that phone and cable companies
allow internet service providers free access to the
public space of their cable and phone lines and to
prevent these companies from being able to screen or
interrupt internet content consistent with current
law.  Otherwise, these giants will become
self-regulating, able to charge whatever prices they
wish and at their discretion block out whatever
content they won’t allow in our public space they
control for their own private interest.

In the past 10 years, the telecom, broadcast and cable
giants have spent a fortune getting legislation passed
favorable to its interests and getting back far
greater riches and media and telecommunication
concentration and control in return.  They’ve profited
hugely at the public’s expense through massive tax
breaks, relaxed ownership rules and unrestricted
control of the public airwaves and broadband markets
the big five giants plus cable giant Comcast now
dominate and exploit with few checks and balances put
up against them.

The battle lines are now drawn as public advocates
face down the cable and telecom companies to preserve
the last media frontier of a free and open internet
that’s become a symbol and best hope to revive a
democratic society, structure and culture now in big
trouble.  Against us are the corporate media predators
who covet what they have no right to have and want to
deny the public what’s now available to them at
reasonable and nondiscriminatory cost.  If they
prevail, they intend to establish internet toll roads
or premium lanes so that users wanting speed and
access have to pay extra for it.  Those who won’t or
can’t will get slower service and be unable to access
some formerly free sites without paying for them.  The
idea is to give the industry another lucrative revenue
stream and do it at the public’s expense.  It’s also
another effort to control thought, suppressing
altogether what’s unfriendly to state and corporate
interests and do it in a venue never intended to be
exploited for commercial gain or be restricted in its
ability to remain free and open.

This is a battle the public can’t afford to lose, and
the telecom cartel will pull out all the stops to win.
It’ll be up to the new 110th Congress to decide, and
the outcome at this stage is very much up for grabs.
The commercial giants have outspent public interest
advocates 500 - 1, but concerned citizens fought back
flooding the 109th Congress with over one million
letters demanding they allow a free and open internet
information commons to remain in place.  2007 will
likely be the year of decision, and how it turns out
will be a crucial marker for potential future media
reform and whether there’s any chance for a democratic
resurgence and national rebirth desperately needed. 

In the spirit of Tom Paine, here’s what it comes down
to: 

Step one: save the internet as a free and open space.
Keep it out of the hands of corporate media predators
wanting to profit from it at our expense and control
its content. 

Step two: address the greater issue of media reform
and change to open the major channels of
communications to more competition and public
participation. 

Step three: achieve steps one and two and then take on
the biggest issue of all - saving the republic the way
our Forefathers did in creating one that over time we
allowed to founder because we lost control of our
public media spaces and allowed the forces controlling
them to program our minds and thinking to accept
what’s best for them but against our own self-interest
and survival.

It’s never to late to act, but it’s high time we
realized we’d better do it and quickly.  Freedoms
don’t protect themselves and are easily lost the way
Edmund Burke explained saying: “The only thing
necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to
do nothing.”  Abolitionist Wendell Phillips added
“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” 

It all starts with public awareness through knowledge
that’s what Thomas Jefferson meant when he said “If a
nation expects to be ignorant and free….it expects
what never was and never will be….Educate and inform
the whole mass of people….They are the only sure
reliance for the preservation of our
liberty….Enlighten the people….and tyranny and
oppressions….will vanish like evil spirits….Every
generation needs a new (regenerating) revolution.” 

The revolution we need now begins with regaining
control of the means of mass communication to achieve
an enlightened public Jefferson spoke of.  Achieving
that means all else is possible.

Dedicated to the Spirit of Tom Paine’s Corner and Its
Editor Jason Miller

This essay is dedicated to the man whose web site
inspired it.  Jason Miller operates Tom Paine’s Corner
and states its purpose proudly at the top of its front
page - ....“a site dedicated to advancing universal
human rights, fostering social and economic justice,
and supporting the cause of all oppressed, exploited
and impoverished human beings on our earth.”  Visit
his blog site and see how well he does it.  And
remember the way to achieve Jason’s noble goal, and
all others who share it with him, is to have an
informed and aware electorate that’s only possible
when the means of communication operate to serve the
public interest unlike the way they now do.  It’s
hoped this article will inspire and arouse its readers
to work to make that possible.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).  Also visit his blog
site at sjlendman.blogspot.com

 


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