Monday, January 15, 2007

Words of Power #32: MLK Day 2007 -- A Call to Conscience in the Corridors of State and Media Power

Image: The balcony of the Lorraine Motel (Memphis, TN), just moments after the assasination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (April 1968)

If Dr. King could speak today he would tell us to stop this madness and bring our troops home. He would say that war is an obsolete, ineffective tool of our foreign policy. He would say that we must struggle against injustice, we must stand up for what we believe, but if peace is our goal, then peaceful ends can only be secured by peaceful means. He would say as a nation and as a people we can do better; we must do better. We must find a way to live together as brothers and sisters or we will perish as fools. In Commemoration of Martin Luther King, Jr., Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), Huffington Post, 1-14-07

Forty years ago, almost to the month, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood at this pulpit, in this house of God, and with the full force of his conscience, his principles and his love of peace, denounced the war in Vietnam, calling it a tragedy that threatened to drag our nation down to dust....If you’re in Congress and you know this war is going in the wrong direction, it is no longer enough to study your options and keep your own counsel. Silence is betrayal. Speak out, and stop this escalation now. You have the power to prohibit the president from spending any money to escalate the war – use it. And to all of you here today – and the millions like us around the country who know this escalation is wrong – your job is to reject the easy way of apathy and choose instead the hard course of action. Silence is betrayal. Speak out. Tell your elected leaders to block this misguided plan that is destined to cost more lives and further damage America’s ability to lead. And tell them also, that the reward of trust. Former Senator John Edwards (D-NC), "Realizing the Dream," Riverside Church, Harlem, January 14, 2007

When King began in 1967 to express outspoken opposition to the war in Vietnam....The Washington Post went so far as to declare that, with his opposition to the war, "King has diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people." Similarly, King's attempts to advance an economic justice agenda –- the work of his final days as he came to Memphis to march with striking garbage collectors –- was dismissed as a both futile and dangerous.
Things have only grown worse as media consolidation has led to a dumbing down of our mass communications....the relatively serious examinations of fundamental questions of war and peace that were seen during the Vietnam War have been replaced by the embedded – or, as Pultizer Prize winning author Studs Terkel refers to it: "in bed with the administration" -- coverage of the Iraq quagmire.
John Nichols, Dr. King and the Media, The Nation

Words of Power #32: MLK Day 2007 -- A Call to Conscience in the Corridors of State and Media Power

By Richard Power

No public personality had a stronger influence on my life than the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. As a child, I clutched my portable, transistor radio, listening to his historic speeches (such speeches were broadcast then), and as I listened, I wept -- not out of sorrow, but out of joy, a profound spiritual joy for the truth and beauty that reverberated in his voice and were reflected in his vision.

MLK Jr.'s influence on the USA was a shamanic one, and those of us whose lives he truly touched, also exercise that shamanic power (and responsibility) -- even today.

It is poignant and encouraging that the 2007 Conference for Media Reform was held in Memphis over the weekend, and that Jesse Jackson (whose shirt was soaked in MLK's blood on the day of the assassination) and Bill Moyers (who rose to prominence in that era when the US mainstream media did, however haltingly, live up to its responsibilities) were among its leaders.

This year in particular, MLK Day has extraordinary and immediate meaning: the Democrats in the US Congress are close to achieving their bold agenda for their first 100 Hours in power. The Bush-Cheney national insecurity team's neo-con wet dream ("I Rock and I Ran Amok") has shoved the Middle East to the brink of regional chaos, and plunged the USA into a moral, economic and geopolitical abyss. Soon, congressional investigations will commence, which will in turn lead to a Constitutional Crisis of unprecedented scope and danger.

Over the next few weeks, as the nation hurtles towards the coming confrontation, there are two terrible mistakes that the Democratic leadership must not make:

First, they must not be anything less than fierce and relentless in their investigations of the Bush-Cheney regime. In regard to 9/11 and Katrina, the Bush-Cheney regime is likely guilty of criminal negligence (at best). In regard to Iraq, etc., the Bush-Cheney regime is likely guilty of crimes against humanity. They have violated federal law, in particular the US Constitution; they have violated international law, in particular the UN Charter and the Geneva Accords.

Second, the Democratic Party leadership must NOT look for objectivity or independence from the US mainstream news media. The corporatist overlords of the media monopolies have been worse than complicit, they have been full partners in the abomination of the last six years. And they are going to go down with the ship. The Democratic Party leadership should cultivate and protect the alternate media, i.e., progressive talk radio, the blogosphere, etc.

The mainstream news media's preparations for these looming showdowns in Beltwayistan and the Persian Gulf are epitomized by ABC's hiring of Glenn Beck (I posted several months ago about the outrage of CNN cutting him a paycheck, now he is getting one from ABC too):

...Glenn Beck will soon join Good Morning America as a "regular commentator." "Glenn is a leading cultural commentator with a distinct voice," GMA senior executive producer Jim Murphy told the AP. "At times, he is the perfect guest for many of the talk topics we cover on morning news programs." But as Media Matters for America has extensively documented, what often distinguishes Beck's "voice" are his inflammatory and controversial comments regarding Muslims, Arabs, Mexicans, and other minorities....Beck has not reserved his vitriol for Arabs and Muslims alone, however....
Beck referred to "those who were left in New Orleans [during Hurricane Katrina], or who decided to stay" as "scumbags."
Beck called antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan "a pretty big prostitute." He later described her as a "tragedy pimp."
...After airing a clip from the documentary film An Inconvenient Truth in which former Vice President Al Gore states that global warming could cause many highly populated coastal areas to be submerged by seawater -- including the entire city of Shanghai -- Beck responded: "This is what would happen to Shanghai. Does anybody really care? I mean, come on. Shanghai is under water. Oh, no! Who's gonna make those little umbrellas for those tropical drinks?"
Good Morning America turns blind eye to Beck's smears, hires him as regular commentator, Media Matters

MLK Day 2007 is dominated by two overriding moral imperatives:

1) To develop a winning, real-world strategy for peace and stability in the Middle East (which includes ending the US occupation of Iraq)

2) To liberate the US tax-payers' air-waves from corporatist control

How to Develop a Winning Strategy for Peace and Stability in the Middle East

Although you wouldn't know it from the framing of the US mainstream news media, Democratic military strategists and geopolitical experts have aggressively analyzed and articulated the failures of the Bush-Cheney National Insecurity team, and they have also offered several viable alternative paths.

Notably, Brezinki, Murtha and Clark (none of them "doves") have made compelling statements in the last few days.

The speech reflects a profound misunderstanding of our era. America is acting like a colonial power in Iraq. But the age of colonialism is over. Waging a colonial war in the post-colonial age is self-defeating. That is the fatal flaw of Bush's policy. Zbigniew Brzezinski, Five Flaws in the President's Plan, Washington Post, 1-22-06

Five months ago, we put an additional 10,000 troops in Baghdad. Attacks increased and a record number of Americans and Iraqis were killed. I see no difference between this and the President's plan to "stay the course."...A year ago, I called for a redeployment of our forces and predicted that this "stay the course" policy would adversely affect our military readiness. The Defense Subcommittee will begin holding extensive hearings on January 17th to determine how we can best restore the readiness and strategic reserve of our military.
Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), A Surge in American Forces is Unacceptable, Huffington Post, 1-11-07

Gen. Wesley Clark caricaturizes the Bush Splurge as "Stay the course, more."

It is a tactical tweak but the strategy is wrong...The Neo-Con strategy failed. The Neo-Con strategy was hey let's go into Iraq, let's kick 'em in the teeth, let's get rid of Saddam, make it a democracy, and then we will move our divisions into Syria, get rid of that guy Assad and then that will give us control of Lebanon, and then we can sweep back around and put real pressure n Tehran, and try to get regime change there. It was a great vision, but it was a fantasy and it misunderstood how nations and societies are organized. Gen. Wesley Clark (US Army retired), former Supreme Allied Commander, Politically Direct, Air America Radio, 1-11-07

Emphasizing that Iraq is the fault line between the Sunni and the Shia, Clark stresses real-world diplomacy:

This is the absolute frontline of a 700 year struggle for power between two rival sects of Islam...If you go over to Iran and say "Look, I need your help." They would say "Just leave, leave right now." Diplomacy is about trying to create a different vision for the region. Do people in this region always have to fight? Does every issue have to be settled by force? Do people have to hate each other all their lives and pass that hate on to their children? Do people have to live in fear? There has to be a better way. That sounds idealistic, but it can be implemented step by step...Not that you can ask Iran for help, you can help Iran. We have things they want. They want to be admitted into the world community. They would like to have their assets unfrozen. They would like to get new technology for their oil fields. They would like to be recognized as an important power in the region....We are the key to unlocking all of these things for them. We could do that for them if they do what needs to be done for us."

How to Liberate US Tax-Payers' Air-Waves from Corporatist Control

Two rebel FCC commissioners exhorted the 3K plus crowd at the 2007 Conference for Media Reform in Memphis.

Here are brief excerpts from their remarks, with links to the full text and YouTube videos:

On Friday Night FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps challenged thousands of media reformers to set a bold new agenda for America’s media system and “get rid of the bad old rules that got us into this mess in the first place.”
Speaking at the National Conference for Media Reform in Memphis, Commissioner Copps released the “New America Media Contract” to, as he put it, “guarantee that our airwaves serve their masters — we, the people.”
Copps then urged Free Press and the other activists and organizers present at the event to “shift from the defense to the offense” and mobilize millions of Americans to make corporate media sign on to the Contract:
“We, the American people have given broadcasters free use of the nation’s most valuable spectrum, and we expect something in return. We expect this.
First, a right to media that strengthens our democracy;
Second, a right to local stations that are actually local;
Third, a right to media that looks and sounds like America;
Fourth, a right to news that isn’t canned and radio playlists that aren’t for sale; and
Fifth, a right to programming that isn’t so damned bad so damned often”

Copps Unveils New America Media Contract,

FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein on Friday told thousands of people gathered at the National Conference for Media Reform to bury “six feet deep” any attempts by the FCC to roll back media ownership rules.
Adelstein called for a congressional veto procedure known as a “resolution of disapproval,” which was originally designed to allow a Republican Congress to quickly repeal regulations by then President Clinton.
“But the winds of change have now swept through Washington,” he said. “This time, in 2007, if the FCC passes an Order to increase media consolidation, there’s nothing to stop Congress from vetoing it. If it comes to a vote on the Hill, we’ll seeb ipartisan support that’s been bottled up come pouring out.”
Adelstein said:
“If a bad Order comes out of the FCC, let’s not just bury it. Let’s bury it six feet deep! When the FCC goes too far in rolling back media ownership limits, if you demand it, Congress can send it right to the dumpster of history where it belongs!
“Even better, let’s keep bad rules from coming out in the first place. We have a new Commission, one that has seen the damage you can do to policies that neglect the people we’re supposed to serve. You need to send the message loud and clear: if the FCC dramatically rolls back the media ownership protections, it will get vetoed by Congress. So don’t even bother trying.”
Adelstein Calls on Congress to Deep Six Consolidation,

There is no better example of the role of alternative media than Buzzflash, and so, in conclusion, here is an excerpt from a Buzzflash editorial posted from Memphis:

The mainstream media is part of the hierarchical public relations machine that sees news as being White House PR announcements about the news, not the news itself....
It is amazing that Americans have turned so hard against the Iraq War when they are being spoon-fed Politburo style lies and euphemistic propaganda slogans by the corporate press, when the actual context of news is denied the consumer and when writers are not allowed to stray far from the White House script.
The corporate media is guilty of malfeasance. It really isn’t in the business of news anymore; it is the business of entertainment and fattening its bottom line. It is in the business of siding with any politician that will give it tax breaks, regulatory favors, and contracts for companies owned by parent corporations.
If you harbor any doubts about this, two days at the Media Reform Conference would surely dispel them.
If you still are skeptical, let us ask a question BuzzFlash has asked before.
Would any of the major corporate media conglomerates – given his record as President – hire George W. Bush as the CEO of their companies?
Please raise your hand, if the answer is yes.
How come we don’t see any hands go up?
Now, do you understand what hypocrites the owners of the corporate media are?
It’s really quite simple to understand: they’ll inflict a malicious, psychiatrically-impaired, chronically failing frat boy on America and the world, as long as their bottom lines are protected.
Now, that’s a news story.

Corporate Media Malfeasance: A BuzzFlash Update from the Memphis Media Reform Conference -- Part II, Buzzflash, 1-14-07

Richard Power is the founder of GS(3) Intelligence and 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: For more information, go to

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