Democratic revival requires victory over propaganda
This Sunday afternoon’s “Reviving Democracy” gathering of citizens at the New Mexico Tech Library will include a preliminary meet and greet. We’ll start at 2:00 with an informal mingling over books before taking in a slide-show presentation assembled by We Are People Here, a group of concerned citizens in the Santa Fe area, at 3:00 p.m. I for one am excited to see what kind of dialog the program generates (full disclosure: although I’ve been to a couple of WAPH meetings, I’ve not seen Reviving Democracy.)
The book mingle is a chance for citizens to bring their favorite non-fiction works, discuss why they value them, and thumb through those brought by others. I’ll lay out some of my favorites, including some periodicals and web addresses; sources I’ve found invaluable in writing over 150 column pieces for publication in various outlets. What these sources share in common is first, they are referenced to, or derived from, factual sources. Second, much of what they reveal is not readily accessible through corporate-produced media.
While I suspect Reviving Democracy to concern itself with the broader project of reimagining democracy in order to restore it, we must bear in mind the effort will not take place in a vacuum. Powerful and regressive forces stand in the way of the struggle to institute people power in our battered society.
Among all the “War on _____ (fill in the blank) s” being waged in our country today, the War on Alternative Ideas is arguably the costliest. Corporate media’s effective embargo on content or ideas that threaten the headlong pursuit of profits continually robs the public of the facts and considered dialog we need to overcome society’s challenges. For example, many if not most of the pundits so thoroughly discredited by their gung-ho support for the Iraq fiasco and/or the Wall Street bubble, continue to enjoy virtually unchallenged exposure on television, radio, in newspapers and mainstream periodicals – not to mention the reappointment of many of these false prophets to prominent positions in government.
I am amazed at how often I hear so-called liberal commentators remark on the “genius” of right wing interests in framing issues to benefit their causes. Hell, it’s easy when you own the megaphones!
Familiar tactics include the widespread use of buzzwords, the red meat regularly thrown to that considerable portion of the American public trained to allow others to do their thinking. For a literal feel of what propaganda is, and does, consider the emotional impact these terms carry today: “labor union,” “college professor,” “atheist,” “socialism,” even “liberal.”
Media monopoly abuse on this scale has catastrophic consequences. According to world-respected agricultural economist Lester Brown and many other qualified scientists, we now face the prospect of widespread famine and governmental collapse on a global scale due to excess levels of carbon in the atmosphere. The ironic truth is that our own exceptionally misinformed country stands among those nations blocking serious discussion of real solutions.
Just as threatening is the current attack on the intellect itself, for it prepares the ground for autocrats who have historically grabbed absolute power in times of crisis by blaming isolated segments of society for the misery of the majority. Already we see this happening in mainstream media’s vilification of the poor (and increasingly, the unemployed middle class), through suggestions their pain is self-inflicted rather than the consequence of an economic model engineered to benefit the wealthy, insensitive, and reckless few. A society beloved of objective inquiry would never entertain such a vicious absurdity.
It remains for us to counter this regressive and dangerous trend by actively seeking out and sharing reality-based sources of information on all matters critical to a healthy society. I hope to see you Sunday afternoon, and that you’ll bring along a choice source of inspiration, or three. If you’re like me you’ve been moved by some special books and will be fascinated to see the reactions they draw from other folks.
Dave Wheelock, a member of the Oneida Nation, directs and coaches collegiate sports at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. Contact him for local developments in support of democracy at email@example.com.