What people are reading —
This should keep those Justice Department library spooks busy tracking down thousands of enemies of the state. Click on the list to see the political leanings of the top ten books people are checking out!
Nope, never said it (again) —
Sydney Schangberg writes in the Village Voice:
On March 21, 2003, the day after the war began, President Bush sent a letter to both houses of Congress laying out the legal backing and underpinning for his decision to go to war. In the letter’s second paragraph, Bush wrote: “I have also determined that the use of armed force against Iraq is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.”
Read his lips. He keeps swearing he never claimed a direct link, but here it is, as the saying goes, in black and white. It is very difficult to think of any interpretation of the above sentence other than that the president of the United States was declaring that Iraq was one of the “nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.
Democracy in decline? —
Martin Jacques is worth pondering, here, but I don’t really have time to ponder right now. Here’s a good excerpt:
If it is mistaken to regard western democracy as a universal abstraction that is equally applicable across the world, it is also wrong to see it as frozen and unchanging. Indeed, there are grounds for believing that western democracy, as we have known it, is in decline.
The symptoms have been well-rehearsed: the decline of parties, the fall in turnout, a growing disregard for politicians, the displacement of politics from the centre-stage of society. These trends have been observable more or less everywhere for at least 15 years.
The underlying reasons are even more disturbing than the symptoms. The emergence of mass suffrage and modern party politics coincided with the rise of the labour movement, which drove the extension of the vote and obliged political parties to engage in popular mobilisation. The rise of the modern labour movement, moreover, provided societies with real choices: instead of the logic of the market, it offered a different philosophy and a different kind of society. The decline of traditional social-democratic parties, as illustrated by New Labour, has meant the erosion of choice, at least in any profound sense of the term. The result is that voting has often become less meaningful. Politics has moved on to singular ground: that of the market.
The influence of the market is manifest in multiple ways. The funding of parties now moves solely to its rhythm: big business and the rich are as important to New Labour as they are to the Conservatives. The same interests fund, and therefore influence, the parties. Big money calls the tune. Nowhere is this truer than in American politics, which has become a plutocracy mediated by democracy, rather than the reverse.
As the media has displaced traditional forms of discourse and mobilisation, ownership of the media has become increasingly important in the determination of political choices and electoral results. The most dangerous example is in Italy, where Silvio Berlusconi’s ownership of the bulk of the private media has enabled him to transform Italian democracy into something verging on a mediaocracy, leaving politics and the state besieged by his immense personal power and wealth.
Perhaps these developments point to a deeper problem incipient in western democracies. Far from the free market and democracy enjoying the kind of harmonious relationship beloved of western propaganda, democracy grew in fact as a constraint on the market, holding it at bay and enabling a pluralism of values and imperatives. What happens when this healthy tension becomes a dangerous imbalance, in which the market is dominant and consumerism is established as the overriding ethos of society, permeating politics just as it has invaded every other nook and cranny of society? Democracy comes under siege. In Italy it is
already gasping for breath. In the US it is deeply and increasingly flawed. Democracy is neither a platitude nor an eternal verity – either for the world or for the west.
CBS: a venerable tradition of censorship —
The signs were there. They were there before CBS killed the Reagan miniseries, before they refused MoveOn.org’s Super Bowl ad, and before they tried to kill the 60 Minutes interview with tobacco whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand. As I mentioned before, I’ve been reading “A Problem from Hell” and, last night, I was reviewing the various sticky flags I’ve placed throughout the book. One of them was for this item on page 77, part of a summary of the US reluctance to recognize the Holocaust:
“Hollywood eased into more realistic accounts of the horrors. The 1961 film Judgment at Nuremberg, starring Judy Garland and Spencer Tracy, jarred millions of viewers by including actual graphic footage from the camps, but the film contained few references to the specific victim groups. When a major network sponsor, the American Gas Association, objected to the mention of gas chambers in the 1959 teleplay version of the film, CBS caved in to pressure and blanked out the references.” (emphasis mine)
Recall, in the matter of the Moveon.org ads, that CBS explained its policy was to decline “advocacy” advertising. Nonetheless, they apparently ran anti-Clinton ads by Citizens United in some markets, during the Sunday night 60 Minutes interview with Bill Clinton!