Friday, May 18, 2007

Piggy back blogging

When one is feeling lazy, piggy backing the blogging of other bloggers is a god send. Here we go:

1) Over at Rationally Speaking, Massimo Piggliuci has a post up about Noam Chomsky about who Chomsky is and why you should at least be familiar with his work. I agree with pretty much everything Massimo says, except that I think Chomsky was being intellectually irresponsible with his involvement in the Faurisson affair.

If you find that entry piques your interest, then here is a link to an interview Chomsky did with The Humanist magazine a few months ago about humanism and secular nationalism. I've read a few of Chomsky's books and many of his articles, and I find that link to be the most succinct and dead-on analysis I've seen in Chomsky's work about the decline of secular nationalism and humanistic values along with the concomitant decline in the level of global democracy. I also found it interesting to note that one of the intellectual figures Chomsky most admires is Wilhelm von Humboldt.

And while we're at it, here's a link from Media Channel about a group of scholars and students at the University of Windsor revisiting the propaganda model described by Chomsky and Herman in Manufacturing Consent:The Political Economy of Mass Media (excerpt here) which was first published over 20 years ago. After witnessing the near complete failure of our press to critically examine the claims of the Bush administration before the invasion of Iraq or the manner in which the fraudulent election in the Ukraine a few years ago was covered while the equally fraudulent election in Zimbabwe was virtually blacked out, it's hard not to give some serious consideration to the merits of the propaganda model. I believe a mistake many people make is in assuming that the model implies an overt conspiracy to manufacture consent, where as Chomsky and Herman argue more that the bias of the news is a systemic flaw that results from the way the press is structured (I touched upon this subject in my recent post on mediacracy).

For more on Chomsky, you can visit The Noam Chomsky Website which has a plethora of articles, interviews, and even entire Chomsky books that can be read on-line. And for good measure, here's a link to Chomsky's blog.

2) More Hitchens on Fallwell. This time Hitchens takes on uber-jerk Sean Hannity and manages to get in a few snipes at Ralph Reed for his ties to the Abramoff scandal. Notice how Hitchens absolutely refuses to let Hannity bully him and treat him like a cardboard prop onto which Hannity can project his own opinions, which is what Hannity usually does with his guests (same as O'Reilly.) Again, however, I have to take issue with something Hitchens says in the video. He says that Fallwell's 9/11 remarks were treasonous ... those remarks were absolutely despicable, but they were not treasonous. See here for a previous post I wrote about the founders intent to avoid specious charges of treason (such as the one Hitchens makes in the video.)

The video reminded me of a similar situation that occurred after the death of William Jennings Bryan when H.L. Mencken wrote a fiercely critical obituary of Bryan entitled "To Expose a Fool." Time seems to have vindicated Mencken on at least the following passage:

The evil that men do lives after them. Bryan, in his malice, started something that will not be easy to stop. In ten thousand country town his old heelers, the evangelical pastors, are propagating his gospel, and everywhere the yokels are ready for it. When he disappeared from the big cities, the big cities made the capital error of assuming that he was done for. If they heard of him at all, it was only as a crimp for real-estate speculators--the heroic foe of the unearned increment hauling it in with both hands. He seemed preposterous, and hence harmless. But all the while he was busy among his old lieges, preparing for a jacquerie that should floor all his enemies at one blow. He did the job competently. He had vast skill at such enterprises. Heave an egg out of a Pullman window, and you will hit a Fundamentalist almost anywhere in the United States today. They swarm in the country towns, inflamed by their pastors, and with a saint, now, to venerate. They are thick in the mean streets behind the gasworks. They are everywhere that learning is to heavy a burden for mortal works. They are everywhere that learning is too heavy a burden for mortal minds, even the vague, pathetic learning on tap in little red schoolhouses.
3) More on Fallwell. All I will say is read this post - Back to the Dark Ages - by Mrs. Robinson at Orcinus to see how truly antithetical to human liberty and reason the fundamentalist teachings of Fallwell were. The post contains a 24 point brochure from 1981 issued by the North Carolina Moral Majority which is nothing short of a deliberate attempt to cripple the mind of any adolescent who follows the points by seriously inhibiting their ability to think critically about ... well ... anything. The points are designed to do one thing: produce individuals who will blindly accept dogma as handed to them. Mrs. Robinsons sums succintly:

Science and history, between them, provide nothing less than our cognitive map of how the entire world works. The power and glory and horror, the inner and outer workings of the universe, the grand attempts and spectacular failures, the possibilities and dangers -- these understandings are essential to our ability to explain and predict the things that happen in the world around us. Our moral judgment depends utterly on clear foresight, which allows us to accurately analyze situations and foresee their likely outcomes. Thus, rules like these -- which deny cause and effect and inhibit pattern-making skills -- actually interfere with the development of effective moral navigation equipment, permanently maiming these students' ability to choose right courses of action.
4) I still assume that anyone reading this blog is also reading Glenn Greenwald's blog. If not I'd direct your attention over there for the coverage he's been doing on the implications of the revelations from James Comey's testimony about the NSA scandal. I'm a bit burned out on this administration's seemingly never-ending wellspring of corruption, lawlessness, and deception. The only thing I would add to any of Greenwald's commentary is: IMPEACH!


5) Speaking of propaganda ....

Perhaps the most important effort to provide oversight of ongoing U.S. wars was the April 24 Congressional hearing on battlefield misinformation. The hearing focused on the wounding, capture and rescue of Jessica Lynch in Iraq in March 2003, and on the death of Pat Tillman in Afghanistan in April 2004. For more than four hours, the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform heard a remarkable amount of information. There were often emotional first-hand accounts; analyses by a medical doctor, dedicated family members and military inspectors; and many questions from members of Congress.

Ideally, news media would have covered the hearing in depth and hosted wide-ranging discussions and debates of the issues raised. Instead, the overwhelming majority of news outlets only showed, quoted or described the opening remarks of the hearing's first witness panel, and then moved on to their next story.

What went unreported were shocking truths about the Lynch and Tillman incidents and the many remaining questions, as well as new insights into military misinformation. The exchanges highlighted below, drawn from testimony given throughout the hearing, fill in these blanks. For an analysis that places the hearing in the context of news coverage at the time of the incidents, see Robin Andersen's article, "'Mission Accomplished,' Four Years Later."
Click the link at the start for the rest of the sordid details.

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