USA! USA! USA!
We’re number one! Other than chanting, just what exactly we are number one at? Besides maybe concentration of wealth at the top and militarism, it’s a mystery to me. We are not number one in health care access for our people. We are not number one in upward mobility.
Maybe we’re number one in levels of incarceration of citizens.
Yes, we’ve all heard the rousing chants. From Nuremburg in 1933 to the famous Palin/McCain rallies of ’08, there’s nothing that gives the feeling of belonging, and sense of pride, more than patriotic chants at mass rallies. From celebrating the birth of the Third Reich to the feverish shrieks against the commie Muslim terrorist Obama, the power of pride swells the masses into ideological frenzy.
It is the herd mentality of the human species. We are very much like sheep and cattle in that sense. We are manipulated like herd animals to huddle in fear, take off our shoes, show our papers, scream out our version of the “two minute hate”, and lash out militarily by unscrupulous authoritarian leaders.
Apart from understanding the herd instinct of their followers, authoritarian leaders universally know something else. A free press is as much their enemy as democracy.
The Nazis had Goebbels, the Soviets had Pravda, and the American Right has talk radio and FOX(R). Their common purpose is the political indoctrination of the population.
Investigative reporters are the enemy. Journalism itself is a political target. The message must be controlled.
The founders clearly understood the need for a free press. It is at the top of the Bill of Rights, along with the right of the people to free speech and assembly.
But how is that “free press thingy” workin’ out for us?
The radical Right has been attacking it for decades as “liberal media”. They want the American people to listen to the unfiltered ideology of the Right, and to distrust corporate news reporting because of a fictional liberal bias. Trust the Party line, not your newspaper or broadcast news.
That’s bad enough for a democratic republic, but it gets worse.
The worse news is the quality of a free press in the US has fallen. According to Reporters Without Borders, in the Free Press Index for 2011 /2012 we share the level of 47th place in the world, with Argentina and Romania.
Who’s at the top of the list?
“This year’s index finds the same group of countries at its head, countries such as Finland, Norway and Netherlands that respect basic freedoms. This serves as a reminder that media independence can only be maintained in strong democracies and that democracy needs media freedom.”
Wouldn’t ya know? Those darn socialist countries with universal single payer health care did it again. It's gotta be a communist conspiracy!
So what happened to us? Why is our free press sinking in the former land of the free? Perhaps it is because we no longer have a strong democracy. We are a corporatocracy. Times have changed.
The article explains: “The United States (47th) also owed its fall of 27 places to the many arrests of journalists covering Occupy Wall Street protests.”
In fact, much of the corporate media could barely contain its hostility toward the OWS protestors:
The front page of Rupert Murdoch's New York Post (11/4/11), urging a crackdown on Occupy Wall Street, proclaimed: "Enough! Mr. Mayor, It Is Time to Reclaim Zuccotti Park--and New York's Dignity."
CNN's Wolf Blitzer:On September 19: "Protests here in New York on Wall Street entering a third day. Should New Yorkers be worried at all about what's going on?"
Washington Post: November 16: "Is this an occupation or an infestation?"
Is this what democracy and its free press look like?
And how were reporters covering the Zuccotti Park crackdown treated?
Mother Jones’ Josh Harkinson reported:
"Can I help you?" an burly officer asked me, his helpfulness belied by his scowl.
"I'm a reporter," I told him.
"This is a frozen zone, all right?" he said, using a term I'd never heard before. "Just like them, you have to leave the area. If you do not, you will be subject to arrest."
By then, riot police were moving in, indiscriminately dousing the peaceful protesters with what looked like pepper spray or some sort of gas. As people yelled and screamed and cried, I tried to stay calm.
"I promise to leave once the arrests are done," I replied.
"No, you are going to leave now."
He grabbed my arm and began dragging me off. My shoes skidded across the park's slimy granite floor. All around me, zip-cuffed occupiers writhed on the ground beneath a fog of chemicals.
"I just want to witness what is going on here," I yelped.
"You can witness it with the rest of the press," he said. Which, of course, meant not witnessing it.
"Why are you excluding the press from observing this?" I asked.
"Because this is a frozen zone. It's a police action going on. You could be injured."
His meaning was clear. I let myself be hustled across the street to the press pen.
USA! USA! We’re 47th in freedom of the press.
“Frozen Zone”. Now that sounds like the state of our democracy.
Next stop, the Fascist Zone.