Real journalists

I like Obama, and I hope this kind of thinking doesn’t turn people off to the process, but it’s pretty much on the money.

by Chris Hedges:

Washington has become Versailles. We are ruled, entertained and informed by courtiers. The popular media are courtiers. The Democrats, like the Republicans, are courtiers. Our pundits and experts are courtiers. We are captivated by the hollow stagecraft of political theater as we are ruthlessly stripped of power. It is smoke and mirrors, tricks and con games. We are being had.

The past week was a good one if you were a courtier. We were instructed by the high priests on television over the past few days to mourn a Sunday morning talk show host, who made $5 million a year and who gave a platform to the powerful and the famous so they could spin, equivocate and lie to the nation. We were repeatedly told by these television courtiers, people like Tom Brokaw and Wolf Blitzer, that this talk show host was one of our nation’s greatest journalists, as if sitting in a studio, putting on makeup and chatting with Dick Cheney or George W. Bush have much to do with journalism.

No journalist makes $5 million a year. No journalist has a comfortable, cozy relationship with the powerful. No journalist believes that acting as a conduit, or a stenographer, for the powerful is a primary part of his or her calling. Those in power fear and dislike real journalists. Ask Seymour Hersh and Amy Goodman how often Bush or Cheney has invited them to dinner at the White House or offered them an interview.

All governments lie, as I.F. Stone pointed out, and it is the job of the journalist to do the hard, tedious reporting to shine a light on these lies. It is the job of courtiers, those on television playing the role of journalists, to feed off the scraps tossed to them by the powerful and never question the system. In the slang of the profession, these television courtiers are “throats.” These courtiers, including the late Tim Russert, never gave a voice to credible critics in the buildup to the war against Iraq. They were too busy playing their roles as red-blooded American patriots. They never fought back in their public forums against the steady erosion of our civil liberties and the trashing of our Constitution. These courtiers blindly accept the administration’s current propaganda to justify an attack on Iran. They parrot this propaganda. They dare not defy the corporate state. The corporations that employ them make them famous and rich. It is their Faustian pact. No class of courtiers, from the eunuchs behind Manchus in the 19th century to the Baghdad caliphs of the Abbasid caliphate, has ever transformed itself into a responsible elite. Courtiers are hedonists of power.

Our Versailles was busy this past week. The Democrats passed the FISA bill, which provides immunity for the telecoms that cooperated with the National Security Agency’s illegal surveillance over the past six years. This bill, which when signed means we will never know the extent of the Bush White House’s violation of our civil liberties, is expected to be adopted by the Senate. Barack Obama has promised to sign it in the name of national security. The bill gives the U.S. government a license to eavesdrop on our phone calls and e-mails. It demolishes our right to privacy. It endangers the work of journalists, human rights workers, crusading lawyers and whistle-blowers who attempt to expose abuses the government seeks to hide. These private communications can be stored indefinitely and disseminated, not just to the U.S. government but to other governments as well. The bill, once signed into law, will make it possible for those in power to identify and silence anyone who dares to make public information that defies the official narrative.

Being a courtier, and Obama is one of the best, requires agility and eloquence. The most talented of them can be lauded as persuasive actors. They entertain us. They make us feel good. They convince us they are our friends. We would like to have dinner with them. They are the smiley faces of a corporate state that has hijacked the government and is raping the nation. When the corporations make their iron demands, these courtiers drop to their knees, whether to placate the telecommunications companies that fund their campaigns and want to be protected from lawsuits, or to permit oil and gas companies to rake in obscene profits and keep in place the vast subsidies of corporate welfare doled out by the state.

We cannot differentiate between illusion and reality. We trust courtiers wearing face powder who deceive us in the name of journalism. We trust courtiers in our political parties who promise to fight for our interests and then pass bill after bill to further corporate fraud and abuse. We confuse how we feel about courtiers like Obama and Russert with real information, facts and knowledge. We chant in unison with Obama that we want change, we yell “yes we can,” and then stand dumbly by as he coldly votes away our civil liberties. The Democratic Party, including Obama, continues to fund the war. It refuses to impeach Bush and Cheney. It allows the government to spy on us without warrants or cause. And then it tells us it is our salvation. This is a form of collective domestic abuse. And, as so often happens in the weird pathology of victim and victimizer, we keep coming back for more.


Haven’t posted for a while, not that anyone except Cole Gibas has noticed. I put out a feeler last week to see who checks into my blog, and Cole was the only one who responded. I couldn’t have asked for a better only reader. Cole is one of the smartest and most interesting Mille Lacs natives I’ve met — due in part to his parents, Diane and Tom.

So Tim Russert died. My mom was sad. She watches a lot of cable. I never watched the guy much, but I do think he was among the many who dropped the ball in the run-up to the Iraq war. The toughest questioner in Washington, along with Chris Matthews, just didn’t get it done. Still, it’s sad when any 58 year old dad and husband and all around nice guy keels over. I’m probably next. Except for the nice guy part.

McCain says he doesn’t use a computer. As if we needed another reason not to vote for him. This appalls me. My dad was older than McCain, and he took it on himself to learn to use one. My mom uses one too. She’s 81. What kind of cocoon is this guy living in? Do we really want a guy running the country who doesn’t have a grasp of the machine that runs the world? If you don’t use a computer in this day and age, and you’re in a position of authority and public service, you are either dumb, lazy, or lacking curiosity. And haven’t we had enough of dumb, lazy, uncurious presidents in recent years?

I still hear people at work sometimes asking each other questions, as if the answer wasn’t right there at their fingertips. I still hear people making up answers to questions that can be debunked within 15 seconds with Google and Wikipedia. Get with it, Jon McCain. If being a war hero was the only credential you needed to be president, you would’ve won in 2000, or Al Gore would’ve, or Kerry would’ve won in 2004.

I’ve been working on my children’s book. It’s called The Upside-Down Cow. I never thought of myself as an illustrator, but the pictures have turned out surprisingly good. I used a computer.

See comments below

Joe Fellegy responded to my paranoid ramblings (see “Another one” below) about Vince Hill’s Ojibwe News article. Joe’s right that it was not a well reasoned post, but I don’t delete stuff once I put it up, however lame it may be.

I take issue with much of what Joe says in his comment, though. You can read about it in my comment after his comment.

It’s a good thing Joe didn’t come fishing with Rob and me at 5:30 today. We couldn’t get the boat started. On the other hand, maybe Joe would’ve been able to salvage our morning.

Consolation prize: Country Corner in Isle has the best All-American breakfast in the world. Perfect eggs, hashbrowns, bacon.

Good advice

Something made me pick up a “Minnesota” Pioneer Press yesterday. I wanted to check out the design, mainly. They’ve changed their page size again and their look. It’s a lot less formal now, more tabloid-size and feel (which I don’t think is a bad thing).

It’s a shell of its former self in terms of original, local content.

Anyway, there was a list of life skills for graduates that I thought was incredibly good. I definitely couldn’t come up with a better one. From someone called Dr. Crank.

In no particular order, these are skills you should have when you hit the real world.

Sew on a button
Do laundry
Change a tire
Balance a checkbook
Prepare a meal
Indulge moderately
Embrace intimacy
Eschew vulgarity
Distinguish between needs and wants
Avoid whatever is popular
Clean a bathroom
Pick up the check
Apologize earnestly
Read a newspaper
Read for pleasure
Read to learn something new
Questiont their convictions
Create something with their own hands
Tip heavily
Write a letter
Distinguish between fact and opinion
Be grateful for what they have
Be proud of what they have achieved
Unclog a drain
Exercise daily
Identify birds, flowers, trees

Dew point

When you walk in the morning, around the 6 o’clock hour, you really get a sense of the humidity and the dew point. I used to mow the trails around our place with our Ford 8N, but it’s out of commission, so the grass and wood nettles are getting long. Mowing the trails gives you a false sense of the tameness of nature. You can’t ignore how bursting with energy everything is when you just let it grow. My trail is now just a V in the sea of grass, or a 6-inch bare spot through the woods, instead of a five-foot swath.

Yesterday I got soaked because I forgot to wear my rain pants (I’m tired at 6). I generally walk in my pajamas, which were thoroughly drenched to the thighs by the time I got back. The dew was so thick it ran into my rubber boots, so when I put them on today, they were still wet inside.

Today was not so bad. A breeze and lower humidity made it less wet. But my rain pants were still soaked when I got home.

Overnight the carpet of trout lilies and anemones becomes lost in the ferns and nettles and Virginia waterleaf. I have a green inchworm on my sleeve.

Who are you?

My site meter tells me I get about 20-some visits a day to this blog. I figured they were mostly my friends and family, but a few weeks ago, the numbers jumped to about 30-40 per day, around the time of the infamous “gill net flap.” At about the same time, Vivian’s numbers went through the roof, so perhaps someone had drawn attention to our blogs.

Anyway, if you’re a regular visitor, I’d love to know who you are, so either comment once in a while or send me an email to let me know you’re reading my blog.

I suspect some people are lurking out there hoping to seize on my more outrageous comments, so i might have to go back to observations about birds and such.

By the way, the Mess will be unveiling a new website in a few months, so our blogs will probably shift to that site. I’ll continue to cross-post, at least for a while.