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Axis of Evil and Media Stranglehold

by Tom Turnipseed

Bush rallies America in a perpetual war against “evil ones” and the “axis of evil.” Ronald Reagan used the cold war to lambast the “evil empire” of the Soviet Union. Their administrations are strikingly similar not only in their use of adjectives, but also in denouncing Washington and “big government” and pushing for tax cuts for the rich and deregulating business. It is interesting to compare the corporate connections of the Reagan years and the Bush administration. At the hub of both sits General Electric.

Ronald Reagan was brought to us by General Electric. Reagan was a mediocre movie actor when he became the host of the General Electric Theater on NBC. General Electric launched his political career by sponsoring a national speaking tour for their handsome and wholesome, look-um-in-the-eye, all-American guy who pushed their conservative philosophy from coast to coast. Reagan was the ideal political huckster for corporate America’s profits-over-people philosophy of unbridled greed. He could put a nice face on the mean-spirited politics of fear and greed as he blamed “welfare mothers,” “social programs,” “government regulations” and the “evil empire of the Soviet Union” as causes for America’s troubles. His divisive scape-goating of poor people and invective against government programs enabled him to deliver a giant tax break for the rich, roll back many health and safety regulations, and push through a gigantic military buildup for corporate defense contractors like General Electric. His racially charged attacks on affirmative action failed to bring “good things to life” for racial minorities and women as General Electric’s advertising slogan promised those who purchased their products. Like Reagan, George W. Bush was supported by big corporations, and although Enron gets a lot of credit, Bush was also presented to us by General Electric, a more established prototype of corporate America success also rumored to have some Enron-like accounting problems.

General Electric and its executives and employees gave more than 70% of their campaign contributions to Bush and the Republicans in the last election cycle. Their newly retired and highly honored CEO, Jack Welch, was a Bush supporter. Welch earned his sobriquet, Neutron Jack, for having fired so many employees when he became Chairman and CEO of General Electric in 1981 and was touted by many business writers as America’s leading corporate manager. Welch was ultimately successful in putting profits over people and was also smart in acquiring a media empire including NBC, CNBC and MSNBC. where all those talking heads, writers and producers delivering the news to America knew they were working for Neutron Jack and General Electric. To remind them and America of who “owns” the news, an aerial shot of the GE sign atop the GE building is displayed as Tom Brokaw and the Tonight Show go off the air each weekday evening.

A recent federal appellate court decision will further tighten the overwhelming corporate stranglehold on information available to everyday Americans on television and cable channels owned by media giants. More corporate consolidation in media will further enhance the Bush administration’s ability to mesmerize and manipulate U.S. citizens with malignant militarism and pernicious patriotism. Corporate America procured the White House with the most money ever contributed to a presidential campaign and the Bush operatives are mere minions of modern mega-bucks moguls whose avarice exceeds their profiteering predecessors in the Gilded Age. The big boys bought a government and installed former corporate executives and lobbyists to run it. The flag-waving frenzy that fills our television screens cloaks a corporate callousness that puts war profits over people’s lives. In the wonderful-world-of-never-ending-war, the Bush administration unilaterally broadens the conflict and blatantly admits an intent to lie.

Our tax dollars are now being used to kill people who have nothing to do with terrorism against the U.S. and to spread lies and disinformation around the world. At the request of the Karzai interim government, the United States has opened a new phase of the war in Afghanistan by bombing militia groups which are neither Taliban or Al Qaeda and have no connection with the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. Sources in the Pentagon said that part of the giant increase in the military budget will be used to sway public opinion in both friendly and unfriendly countries by using covert means and lies called “black” campaigns, mixed with the truth known as “white” campaigns. Criticized by the New York Times for “managing the news” and the world media for such a brazen admission of purposeful deceit, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld said the new Office of Strategic Influence would “tell the American people and the people of the world the truth”. Then Rumsfeld defended the Pentagon’s need to conduct secret activities intended to deceive adversaries during these times of conflict.

A couple of years ago, a veteran foreign correspondent for a major American daily told me about State Department briefings he attended before going overseas. He was told that the U.S. embassies and their CIA attaches would furnish him with classified “inside information” on what was happening in the region. He said he had serious doubts about the veracity of some of the information. The fact that the U.S. intelligence apparatus uses reporters to do their dirty deeds and to spread misinformation doesn’t make it any easier on the family and friends of a innocent guy like Danny Pearl. I’ve been impressed with reports of writers with the Wall Street Journal in the Afghanistan conflict and agree with the New York Times editorial that said reporters like Pearl “have been trying to present a detailed and informed portrait of the mindset, motives and grievances of the Islamic fundamentalists in the wake of the terrorist attack in New York.” I reckon journalistic integrity will have to take a back seat for now as lying and killing are essential to waging war against “evil ones” and “evil empires.”

Tom Turnipseed is an attorney, writer and civil rights activist in Columbia, South Carolina.

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