Monday, July 5, 2010

Editorial: Double shot of witless propaganda

As Prescott's annual cowboygasm and animal-domination festival winds down, the unnamed Courier editor favors us with yet another pious paean to truth, justice and the American Way, managing to subvert all three in his obeisance to heroic myths.

His lead graf only infers that he hasn't done much international traveling. For those of us who have, the first impression of returning to our home shores is barbed wire, armed guards, bureaucratic hassle and suspicion, neatly expressing how most Americans view the world outside as both threatening and uninteresting (encouraged, of course, by their self-centered corporate media). If you've spent any time outside the wire, you know that America is generally regarded, with good reason, as a witless, greedy, bullying, self-absorbed hegemon, so seeing that flag is a far more mixed experience than the editor's teary relief on getting back safely from his weekend in Rocky Point.

Following the standard script written by the first modern propagandists to pump the first World War, the editor hops to the blood and treasure we expend to "preserve our freedoms" in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, where the only freedoms we uphold are those of multinational corporations to continue exploiting the resources of poor people and sell them crap they don't need, and those of our favored churches to continue marketing their superstitious crusades. The wars we fought for our freedoms ended in 1815, folks. Everything since has been empire-building, resource acquisition or blowback for same.

The Courier editors danced on the sidelines waving pompoms as the second Bush administration worked assiduously to dismantle the freedoms and rights that today's editorial purports to praise. To me this demonstrates a stunning cognitive disconnect, and the editorial provides an example of how this disconnect comes about.

Looked at overall, the editorial's message is that the editor worships the flag. A flag. A thing, a symbol. His fascination with the symbol allows unscrupulous people to manipulate him by manipulating the propaganda around the symbol. So an illegal, aggressive invasion of a country that cannot threaten us, or turning innocent people and children into fine red mist to prop up a corrupt but apparently compliant puppet state, becomes a "fight for our freedom," and questioning it becomes subversive, even treasonous.

If the editor were to see the hard reality of what this 'fight for freedom' means to the people whose freedoms we steal and whose lives we destroy for it, I believe, truly, that he'd be a lot less facile about what he writes around it. But, lacking any useful experience and thrust into the pundit's chair, he falls into the trap of cracked mental shorthand -- war equals the flag equals our values -- and he mires what could be a competent mind in the sticky cotton candy of unquestioned premises and sacred falsehoods.

If you hope to honor the principles on which this country was founded and the people who fought and died to secure them, read the whole document. In particular, absorb how our founders defined tyranny:

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Is this not exactly what we're doing in Iraq and Afghanistan? Having lived under it for generations, would our founders have considered prosecuting this sort of evil for a moment? Does this shed any light on why our misguided attempts to 'help' these countries only leads to escalating resistance and blowback? The Redcoats were patriots too, remember.

By all means, honor our founders and their struggle, but not by worshiping a flag. They didn't fight for a flag, they fought for a set of principles, a foundation for freedom and human dignity. These principles, these rights and democratic practices, are they only legacy they cared about. Wrapping up in the flag while we dishonor their sacrifice by emulating their oppressor is what's truly subversive and treasonous.

Smoki: The beginning

Bruce takes on a feature series about the amazing and ridiculous "Smoki people" in tones that promise authoritative history. Save yourself some trouble and confusion, don't bother with this, just go to the museum and study the exhibits there, including the permanent Smoki People room (which I helped build a few years ago).

It's a story that requires some research and background to tell properly. In working with director Jerry Chinn on the film mentioned here, I was exposed to the broad range of perspectives on the Smoki story and nuances essential to understanding what led these good-hearted people so far off the rails.

As we said in the marketing, if you don't know the Smoki story, you don't know Prescott. Don't let the Courier's loose accuracy and surface treatment impede your knowledge. If you're interested, go to the source.