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Hard Rain Journal 6-29-06: What are the Global Implications of Neo-Totalitarianism in both the US and China? Will The New York Times Fight for Freedom of the Press?
By Richard Power
I know it is getting difficult to remember the 1990s, with its bridge to the 21st Century, but indulge me for a moment...Remember, the policy of engaging China, in the hope that through doing business with the US, China would somehow grow more democratic, and leave behind the inhumanity of totalitarianism?
Well, that bridge to the 21st Century was blown up (but not by Al Qaeda). And China and the USA are indeed starting to look a lot more alike. But not in the way many of us had hoped.
While China has advanced rapidly on the free market front, it has only slowly, and incrementally, loosened up in regard to political freedom.
The USA, on the other hand, is devolving into a one party state. Indeed, it is much easier to understand the pathology of Bush-Cheney regime, and their cronies in the Congress and the media, if you understand that they are not really "neo-conservatives" but actually "neo-totalitarians." Party membership already determines your access to many board rooms, and de facto, DeLay-style political commissars are already in place. It is not a conspiracy, it is simply corporate culture.
As China moves away from totalitarianism toward neo-totalitarianism it will become stronger, but if the USA continues to slides away from its democratic (small "d") and repubican (small "r") institutions, and slips deeper into neo-totalitarianism, it will become weaker. Neither government will be healthy -- either for its own people, or for the world.
This issue should be of concern, not only for US and Chinese citizens, but for all of us globally.
Together, the US and China account for so much of the energy consumed, so much of the pollution generated, so much of the planet’s population, so much consumption, so much economic output, so much military firepower.
What direction will world events take if both of these great nations continue to grow economically and militarily, but choose not to grow democratically?
Consider two current news stories, one involving freedom of the press in China, and the other involving freedom of the press in the USA.
Der Speigel's Andreas Lorenz reports that "Beijing, never a big fan of the freedom of press, is currently seeking to tie the media's hands even further. Under a new law -- unscrupulous local authorities would be given the legal power to prosecute the media for reporting on disasters."
Whether it be floods, earthquakes, epidemics, plane crashes, mining accidents or protests, if it were up to the officials, the Chinese people would soon only be informed about things the authorities wanted them to know. Indeed, the legislation would ban any real reporting -- be it eyewitness accounts or research on the authorities' crisis management -- without the prior blessing of the government. According to the draft, newspapers that violate the law could be subjected to fines of up to 100,000 yuan (€10,000).
Andreas Lorenz, CENSORSHIP IN CHINA: A Step Backwards. 6-28-06
How far from considering such legislation is the Republican leadership in the House and the Senate? How far from championing it are the likes of Brit Hume and Paula Zahn? How far from upholding it are the likes of Roberts, Scalia, Thomas and Alito? Of course, the answer is "not far at all," indeed, they are already there. (We will all soon know the heart and mind of Justice Kennedy, because his conscience and common sense will be sorely tested.)
Now, let's turn to the current predicament of the New York Times (NYT).
I am not a champion of the NYT, I avoid citing it as much as possible, I never pick it up off a newsstand. The "newspaper of record" has become the "newspaper of revision." When conservative sycophants attack it as "liberal," and accuse it of "bias" against conservatism in general, and Bush-Cheney in particular, I laugh. Why? Because at three critical junctures, when the nation and the world needed it most, i.e., in the aftermath of two stolen US presidential elections in 2000 and 2004, and during the ramp-up to the invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003, the NYT failed to tell the truth. And, indeed, it is hard not to conclude that it engaged in deliberate deception and willful cover-up in all three instances. The NYT tries to compensate for what it does not investigate on its front page, by claiming the moral high ground on its editorial page, and by publishing strong op-ed from Paul Krugman, Frank Rich and others. But it is not the editorial page, or the opinion page, that protects the populace from tyranny and corruption, it is the front page.
No, I am not a champion of the NYT, I do not rely on it, and I do not refer others to it. James Risen (State of War) and Michael Gordon (Cobra II) deserve better from their overlords, and their colleagues.
But now the NYT is being threatened, and vilified as traitorous, by the same reactionary juggernaut that it has carried filthy water for until as recently as the 2004 election.
And to add insult to injury, it is being excoriated on false premises, as Media Matters explains:
Numerous conservative commentators joined the Bush administration in arguing that, in detailing a secret Treasury Department program designed to monitor terrorists' international financial transactions, a June 23 New York Times article tipped off terrorists to the U.S. government's ability to track their financial activities -- some going so far as to accuse the newspaper of treason. But the Times report was hardly the first indication of U.S. efforts to monitor terrorists' financial transactions: President Bush himself repeatedly touted the government's capability to track and shut down terrorists' international financial networks.
Conservatives claimed NY Times alerted terrorists, ignored Bush administration's prior promotion of its bank-tracking efforts
Once this canard began reverberating in the echo chamber established by the reactionary juggernaut, with the complicity of the US mainstream news media, the real news in the story was lost. The real news in this story was that there is no congressional oversight. Just as there was none in the NSA spying scandal that the NYT had revealed previously. (BTW, the NYT decided, following an Oval Office meeting, to sit on that one until after the 2004 election. ) The US Constitution demands congressional oversight. Without it, there is no way to know whether or not this program is being used inappropriately, e.g., to spy on domestic political enemies who, unlike Bush have no business with Osama or any other Bin Laden.
Robert Scheer, writing for Truthdig, provides some vital context:
The stakes are very high here. We’ve already been told that we must put up with official lies about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the unprecedented torture of prisoners of war and a massive electronic-eavesdropping program and other invasions of privacy. Now the target is more basic — the freedom of the press to report on such nefarious government activities. The argument in defense of this assault on freedom is the familiar refrain of dictators, wannabe and real, who grasp for power at the expense of democracy: We are in a war with an enemy so powerful and devious that we cannot afford the safeguard of transparent and accountable governance.
In fact, if the media, or Congress, had aggressively pursued the truth earlier, rather than being overwhelmed by the shock of Sept. 11, anti-U.S. terrorists of every stripe would not now be swarming over Iraq. Nor would the degenerating situation in Afghanistan and the enhanced power of religious fanatics throughout the Mideast, from Tehran to Gaza, pose such threats to peace if a fully informed public had held this president in check...
Robert Scheer, A Disgraceful Attack on the New York Times, 6-28-06
Perhaps it is not too late. The Bush-Cheney regime equivalent of the Pentagon Papers is out there somewhere. Maybe the NYT will print it. Maybe there will finally be a reckoning for those who have sought to break the bones of the nation's face to re-shape it in their own image. Of course, it is unlikely that current Supreme Court, flush with the infusion of the two partisan idealogues, i.e., Roberts and Alito, would uphold the Constitution -- if the legal battle were to go that far. No, but it would be wonderful to want to pick up a NYT at a newsstand again. And, if the NYT rises to challenge this regime's egregious disregard for the sanctity of the US Constitution, and its reckless indifference to the safety of the US populace, when the showdown comes, the newspaper's once and future readers would swarm around that building to protect it with their lives.
I have asked this question before, and I will no doubt ask it again, how far are we from the USA's Tiananmen Square moment?
Words of Power #21: Judith Miller, Ken Lay, Florida, 9/11 and The Return of The Forbidden Truths?
Words of Power #19: Colbert and McGovern Echo Murrow and Eisenhower, Is the U.S. Nearing Its Tiananmen Square Moment?
Words of Power #14: It's Not The Unipolar Moment, It's The Bipolar Moment
Words of Power #11: The Outer Limits ("We control the horizontal and the vertical...")
Richard Power is the founder of GS(3) Intelligence and http://www.wordsofpower.net. His work focuses on the inter-related issues of security, sustainability and spirit, and how to overcome the challenges of terrorism, cyber crime, global warming, health emergencies, natural disasters, etc. You can reach him via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, go to www.wordsofpower.net
Media Matters, New York Times, News Media, Robert Scheer, Der Speigel, China, Neo-Conservatives, Bush, Cheney, Al Qaeda, Supreme Court, US Constitution