Here are some thoughts for the holidays:
Word that the Army’s psy-op propagandists and perception mongers in the Pentagon had manufactured a fraudulent hero legend around the “friendly fire” death of footballer-turned special forces combatant Pat Tillman–much like the fraudulent tale woven about “rescuing Pvt. Lynch” during the Iraq war’s initial days–should have us all on our guard regarding the stories out of Washington purveyed to us by a willing and gullible corporate media. If we take this scummy scam conducted at the late Tillman’s expense as a starting point, we might go on to ponder some other things. Among them:
A majority of us Americans think that the unprovoked invasion of Iraq was a mistake–a mistake that has cost nearly 1300 American lives so far, with no end in sight, and over 100,000 innocent Iraqi lives (right up there on a scale comparable to the butchery of Saddam Hussein himself)–yet we just re-elected the man who is responsible for this colossal crime.
Americans continue to flock to auto dealerships to buy SUVs and trucks even though it is common knowledge that the money they pay to fuel these gas-guzzling behemoths goes straight into the pockets of the corrupt, dictatorial regimes, like Saudi Arabia and Yemen, that are breeding and even financially backing the terrorists who have been attacking Americans at home and abroad.
A decisive majority of Americans believe that healthcare should be a right, and that the solution to America’s healthcare crisis is to have a nationalized medical system like Canada’s, yet such an idea isn’t even on the table in Washington, and is not even discussed by the two parties during national campaigns.
A majority of Americans believe that anything that federal or state government runs is bound to be heavy-handed, bureaucratic and prone to corruption, and yet a majority of Americans also supports having those same governments administer the death penalty.
Government statistics keep telling us that the national income is rising, but the average American family today, with both parents working their butts off, is spending 75 percent of its disposable income on housing, food and transportation, compared with less than 50 percent of income back in 1960, when most families were supported by only one job. (Explanation for this enigma: the national income is an average, but with the rich getting unprecedentedly richer and the poor poorer, you can quickly see where the missing income is going.)
Most Americans continue to believe the fantasy that they have the best lifestyle in the world, but in fact, people in Europe and even in countries like Japan and Taiwan, in many ways, live better than do we Americans, in terms of diet, leisure time, old age security, healthcare, and even safety from terrorism.
With a dogmatism that resembles religious zealotry, American schools teach (or preach to) U.S. students that capitalism is the best economic system, and that the American political system is a model for the world, yet bombed-out-looking American inner cities shock visitors from Europe and even from the more advanced countries of Asia. Poverty in the U.S., while hidden from public view, is the equivalent of a mid-sized third world nation in our midst, with millions of American children growing up hungry, ill clothed, uneducated, and trapped in a cycle of poverty and despair.
In the land of the free, an employer is free to fire an employee for wearing a button supporting a political candidate disliked by her boss. Verbally criticizing a “superior” (there’s a great term, like “boss”, to find still in circulation in what is supposed to be a democratic society or equals) on the job is grounds for dismissal. The much celebrated freedom of speech guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights applies only to those few waking hours when citizens are asleep or during those few hours when they are either on their commutes to and from work or at home with their families.
And now this: After taking over the airwaves, taking over the print media, and dominating even the Internet, American corporations are now moving to conquer that last bastion of freedom of expression and information–the grapevine. In a cover story in last Sunday’s New York Times, it was disclosed that companies with names like BzzAgent and Tremor are using tens of thousands of weird but willing volunteers to spread product advertisements by word of mouth, pretending that they are simply voicing their own independent opinions.
Since Washington, particularly these days, is little more than a particularly large corporate monopoly, we shouldn’t be surprised to find its PR and image-control agents adopting the same techniques to promote the kind of scams we saw in the just-exposed Tillman saga. Expect volunteers in your community to begin soon talking in the check-out line about how well the war is going, and about how exciting the Iraqi experiment in democracy is.
Or maybe about how brilliant our maximum leader is.
DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His new book of CounterPunch columns titled “This Can’t be Happening!” to be published this fall by Common Courage Press. Information about both books and other work by Lindorff can be found at www.thiscantbehappening.net.
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org