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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Super Bowl Selling Materialism and Military; Climate Change Ignored by Media; Scientology Fake; Peak Oil Acknowledged by US and Saudis; US Still Backing Dictators; Huffington Post/AOL Merger Bad

- The Planet Keeps Warming, But U.S. Media Interest Cools
    ...there has been a "steep slide" in climate reporting this year, Columbia Journalism Review’s science blog noted. Few major corporate news media outlets even planned to send reporters to Cancún [to the climate talks]; as Washington Post lead environmental writer Juliet Eilperin told Observatory, "It feels like there is absolutely no momentum…. What will there even be to cover in Cancún in terms of public policy or reader interest?"Setting aside the oddness of an often-reactive news media predicting the (lack of) news, if a meeting of the world’s nations upon which the fate of the Earth potentially hinges isn’t a story, what is?
- It Ain't Just Mubarak -- 7 of the Worst Dictators the U.S. Is Backing to the Hilt
    Embattled Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, whose regime has received billions in U.S. aid, has been in the global media spotlight of late. He's long been "our bastard," but he's not alone.Let's take a look at the other dictators from around the planet who are fortunate enough to be on Uncle Sam's good side... 
- Basis of Scientology Proven False
    As I reported in the article, I discussed Hubbard’s war record with Tommy Davis, the spokesman for the Church of Scientology. He said that "if it was true that Hubbard had not been injured, then "the injuries that he handled by the use of Dianetics procedures were never handled, because they were injuries that never existed; therefore, Dianetics is based on a lie; therefore, Scientology is based on a lie".
- WikiLeaks Cables: Saudi/US Officials Acknowledge 'Peak Oil' Approaches
    The US fears that Saudi Arabia, the world's largest crude oil exporter, may not have enough reserves to prevent oil prices escalating, confidential cables from its embassy in Riyadh show.
- Vermont Governor Lays Out Details for Single Payer Pathway
    [The Governor of Vermont] released the legislative details of how to move the state to a single payer health care system, with the first steps beginning this summer.
- Obama’s Deal with the US Chamber of Commerce is Disaster for Workers
    I've been watching (and occasionally trying to deal with) the Chamber for years, and all I know is it has a deep, abiding belief in cutting taxes on the wealthy, eroding regulations that constrain Wall Street, cutting back on rules that promote worker health and safety, getting rid of the minimum wage, repealing the new health-care law, fighting unions, cutting back Medicare and Social Security, reducing or eliminating corporate taxes, and, in general, taking the nation back to the days before the New Deal.
- AOL and HuffPo. The loser? Journalism
    That's borne out by a memo from AOL Chief Executive Officer Tim Armstrong on where his company's journalism is going. It's fairly chilling reading, ordering the company's editors to evaluate all future stories on the basis of "traffic potential, revenue potential, edit quality and turnaround time." All stories, it stressed, are to be evaluated according to their "profitability consideration."
- The Left Built Huffington, and We CanTear it Down Too
    Socialite Arianna Huffington built a blog-empire on the backs of thousands of citizen journalists. She exploited our idealism and let us labor under the illusion that the Huffington Post was different, independent and leftist. Now she’s cashed in and three thousand indie bloggers find themselves working for a megacorp.

The Stink in the Super Bowl
by Robert Shetterly
Published on Wednesday, February 9, 2011 by

"Part of the main plan of imperialism… is that we will give you your history, we will write it for you, we will re-order the past…What’s more truly frightening is the defacement, the mutilation, and ultimately the eradication of history…"
--- Edward Said

It would be hard to imagine any ardent advocate of the military/industrial complex not reveling in what the Super Bowl has become --- a veritable marketing orgy of violence and consumption --- advertisers spending millions per minute to pander to our desire to own more stuff while fighter jets roar overhead reminding us of how the right-to-stuff is protected. Why must a football game become a vehicle for materialism and the power that defends it?  I like football, played it pretty well in high school, and still think that in spite of the performance enhancing drugs & obscene salaries, the game itself is one of the few more or less honest of our mass cultural diversions. But the integrity of the game itself drowns in the toxic soup of values being dished up.

However, I have no need to belabor what should be obvious to anyone.
Instead, something far more insidious was presented to the world minutes before the opening kick-off. A short video, 111 seconds, narrated by the actor Michael Douglas, portrayed The Journey of American History --- its culmination being Super Bowl XLV.

The video consisted of a quick series of icons, both events and people, from our history, each one meant to strike a chord of collective pride, courage, triumph or suffering. In quick succession we saw in black and white the Statue of Liberty, suffragists marching, an image from the Dust Bowl, a landing craft at D-day, John Lennon’s image on a peace poster, JFK at his inaugural saying, "Ask not….," MLK, Jr. intoning, "I have a dream…," Rosa Parks, the Challenger lifting off, someone pick axing the Berlin Wall, the floods of Katrina, FDR speaking, Muhammad Ali gesticulating over a downed opponent, Ronald Reagan smiling, Lindbergh, the flag raising at Iwo Jima, a similar flag raising at 9/11, Amelia Earhart, Ray Charles, the moon landing, a scene from the Depression …. I’m sure I’ve missed a few.
Michael Douglas’s minimal narration began by saying that this was our journey. And after Dr. King’s image, Douglas picked up the theme of the dream, our dream & our belief in that dream. With the images of 9/11, he said that this was our darkest day…. But the flag as still there! He said, "We never give up. How could we?"

And then the video shifted to the teams in the Super Bowl. Douglas said that tonight we are united in the journey of these teams as quick images of chicken packers in Green Bay and a steel mill in Pittsburgh flashed by. Douglas said that dreaming and believing have brought us to this moment of collective celebration and that that is Our Journey. 

That’s our journey? It began with the Statue of Liberty? Not with the genocide of Native Americans, slavery and the crucial assumption that nature was to be feared, conquered and exploited? If I claim that I am telling you about my journey, and tell you only the good parts, what have I told you? What have we learned about the nature of journeys?

If I tell you that my darkest day was the time I was victimized and fail to mention the time I victimized someone else, what do you think I have learned from my experience?

More importantly, the video portrayed a series of American moments and heroic people and equated them with the Super Bowl as though they are all on a continuum of social progress and equally indicative of our finest character. In the parlance of our time, it was simply a portrayal of connecting the dots: Statue of Liberty, suffragists, FDR, D-day, JFK, Rosa Parks, MLK, Jr. … Super Bowl. All on the same line, of equal weight. If this is the trail of dots we need to follow, it’s a trail that leads us deeper into the dark woods, not out of it.

Obviously the Super Bowl is an excuse to celebrate materialism and militarism. Weren’t those two of the "triplets" (the other being racism) that Dr. King identified as being the forces that were destroying the values of this country and leading us to spiritual death?
Many of the dots in that time line figure one way or another in the struggle for some kind of justice. How does the Super Bowl do that? It does, but only if you consider the real triumph of this country not its democratic values but its economic system, capitalism. And you can’t tell the difference.

In his "I Have a Dream" speech, Dr. King described the American Dream as consisting of the "riches of freedom and the security of justice." The blatant message of Super Bowl is the freedom of riches and the justice of security.  Very different things.

People, like many of our students today, who know little history except for the façade of history, and people, like many students today, who have not been taught to think deeply, would accept the message of Michael Douglas’s version of our journey. Without any critique, it felt good.

Who wrote that script for him? 

Clearly its intent was to equate the apotheosis of violence and consumption with the struggle for social justice. Its intent was to drain the real courage and meaning of our most important and most necessary social struggles by equating them with corporate power --- corporate power being the same force that did and does impede social and economic justice. The video’s intent was to show that the behavior and interests of Halliburton are on the same moral timeline as the behavior and interests of Rosa Parks.

We generally think of imperialism, as Edward Said was when he made the comment above, as the military/economic process of one country exploiting another. Imperialism, though, is the same within a country. Propaganda and false history, combined with poor education and a corporate press, are used to subjugate people to the benefit of their own powerful elites. It stinks. It stinks in Iraq and it stinks in Wichita.

Douglas said, "We never give up. How could we?" Give up what? Fighting for justice or fighting for profit?  His choice of words reminded me of another person who asked the same question. Dorothea Lange went into internment camps in the western US during WW II where our government had imprisoned Japanese Americans. She photographed what was being done to these people in the name of the freedom of security. She went to bear witness. Most Americans had no idea nor wanted to. Fear justifies most anything and denies the consequences. After being there & witnessing this crime against humanity, Dorothea Lange said, "This is what we did. How could it happen? How could we?"

What is our journey?

I know little about Michael Douglas except that he is a fine actor and that he recently survived a bout with serious throat cancer. I suspect that both of those factors made him a good choice as the narrator for this bit of dangerous propaganda. Conquering a deadly disease tends to add credibility to one’s professed integrity. But with this video he was helping to proliferate a cultural cancer that is destroying us all.

I noticed that he was sitting right behind George Bush and Condoleezza Rice in the luxury boxes.