Table of Contents

  • ... our elections have become so dependent on television and its emphatic emptiness.

Preface: Now more than Ever

  • ... the book business has been transformed by corporate concentration.
  • ... this war will never end.
  • ... "victory" in this war will mean convincing everybody in the world that we may have to fight forever, so that we can keep living in a world that we might have to fight forever. We will have won when we have made the people, here and elsewhere, understand that we can never win. Thus victory will be ours not when we have won some territory, or destroyed some army, or negotiated peace, but only when we have converted all the world to an apocalyptic faith.

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Look Who's Talking

* By and large, I use "television" to denote the medium per se, and "TV" to indicate the medium as we know it: owned by multinational corporations, dominated by commercial advertisers.

  • "All propaganda is a lie, even when it is telling the truth.," as George Orwell put it.
  • ... it suits a politician to have everybody thinking he's a dunce, especially if he wants to do things his way.
  • TV keeps on sending us an eerie double message, by showing us one thing and telling us another.
  • Seeing that it's all gone wrong yet always hearing, from on high, that everything is perfectly all right, we each feel - whether we can read or not - as helpless and perplexed as any undiagnosed dyslexic faced with street signs, menus, newspapers, and exams... the bizarre postmodern form that propaganda often takes today, here in the culture of TV - wherein the falseness of the spectacle before us is a sort of open secret, obvious to any viewer who wants to see it and, strangely, all the more deceptive for that fact.
  • Every bit of broken English, every flash of comfy ignorance, reminds us of a privilege blithely squandered.
  • ... genius as a politician - and his great accomplishments on the domestic front.
  • Although he deemed himself a whiz at "public relations," he was built only for attack. He had a peerless instinct for the jugular, rare stamina, and a fanatic's single-mindedness - the very gifts that he admired in other "sons-of-bitches," American and Soviet alike. (Nixon)
  • As LBJ was insincere, as Richard Nixon was vindictive, and as George Bush was effete, this president is undeserving.
  • Americans don't like rich slackers or anybody else who gets by without paying for it.
  • ... "was born on third base and thought he hit a triple."
  • Nixon's spiritual legacy: "Study of revenge, immortal hate, / And courage never to submit or yield."
  • TV... As the networks have developed it, the medium is far too speedy, loud, disjunctive, and sensational to permit even the resonance, much less the discussion, of a complex sentence (never mind an idea). Furthermore, the heavy pressure of the advertisers forbids the airing of whatever issues might be either too depressing or too complicated, or too threatening, for the venue's crucial atmosphere of light festivity - a nonstop pseudocarnival that never can slow down, or someone might lose money. Into this tightly regulated riot of commercial propaganda every politician has to fit his/her own propaganda "message" - and, if s/he's lucky, also has to fit him - or herself, looking "nice" enough (with just the right amount of self-effacing humor) and sounding "clear" enough (without alarming anyone) to keep from coming off as "stiff", "robotic," "wooden," or in any other way ridiculous. All "political" success has everything to do with such smooth integration - which by and large leaves out telling truth or making sense.
  • "The receptivity of the great masses is very limited, their intelligence is small, but their power of forgetting is enormous," Hitler wrote.

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The Young Pretender

Curious George: Bush on Books

  • Modern Times by Paul Johnson, which had an effect on my thinking. (GW)

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The Education President: The Sequel

  • Students must be educated for the work force, and that's it. they must have the basic skills and solid "character" to be reliable employees and, therefore, energetic shoppers. Any higher instruction and they might turn "arrogant" - or "uppity," as some folks used to put it.

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That Old-Time Religion

  • "When you have no king by Caesar, you release Barabbas - criminality, destruction, thievery, the lowest and the least.... When you have no king but Jesus, you release the eternal, you release the highest and best, you release virtue, you release potential, John Ashcroft... Against the "bad," all means are justified, since it is God's will that we do away with "them." Unless it is constrained by democratic ways and common sense, that world-view always leads to war, both beyond our borders and among ourselves.

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The Color Line

  • ... blacks value loyalty far more than honesty.

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  • The fetters imposed on liberty at home have ever been forged out of the weapons provided for defense against real, pretended, or imaginary dangers from abroad.
  • Our system suffers from a grave disorder at the top - both in the nations capital, where a callow and illiterate president sits unelected, gamely fronting for a far-right oligarchy, and throughout the mainstream media, whose personnel do not perceive the evidence before their very eyes.
  • Those who beat their guns into plows will plow for those who don't.
  • U.S. interference with democracy is nothing new... As the world learned in the 1970's, the CIA had long routinely meddled in the politics of other lands - from Italy, to Ecuador, from Iran, Guatemala, and the Philippines to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Chile - using violence and every other kind of dirty trick to jar electorates into voting for "our" choices, not their own.
  • :Don't trust your government, your democratic institutions, your principles of law."... it was always they themselves who posed the greatest danger to democracy, not whatever alien subversive movement they might rail against to keep themselves in power. (Bush and his cohorts)
  • ... the mainstream media, and TV in particular (although not just TV), has helped the rightists out at every turn, as we have seen.
  • Repeating his catchphrases endlessly and making errors that got easy laughs, he spoke he spoke no language but the language of TV - which, in their eyes, made him fit for office, whether he was voted in or not.
  • Thus we Americans have been tricked out of our democracy by a vast and very smart conspiracy of stupid talkers - people deftly talking down to us, so as to sell us shoddy goods of slightly different kinds.
  • The gradual suppression of democracy has taken place on many fronts, by varied means: through the GOP's refusal to update the methods of the national census, a tactic that has disenfranchised some three million voters, mostly black; through the "drug war," which has likewise had disastrous civic consequences, by sidelining a few million more minority voters, among others, in the system's federal and for-profit jails; through sophisticated union-busting methods, which have helped to keep America's workers isolated, anxious, and compliant; through "tort reform" and other steps to limit the prerogative of juries. At the top, all such moves are variously certified by a Supreme Court whose far-right majority - the dearest legacy of Reagan/Bush - invariably finds against the people on behalf of state, industrial and/or commercial power, whether its representatives are prison guards or corporate lobbyists, TV-station owners or insurance companies, media barons or right-wing presidential candidates.
  • And day by day the media cartel facilitates this huge infringement of democracy, primarily by failing to report it. That cartel's aim is not to serve us but to serve us up to advertisers; so increasingly its "journalism" is all murder stories, sports and weather, showbiz items, corporate ads disguised as news, and lurid scandals that amount to nothing. Thus we are deprived of the routine illumination on which all democracy depends - that a general blackout has lately disenfranchised all of us, regardless of class, creed or color.
  • ... campaign finance reform, through media reform, electoral reform.
  • We need to realize that the United States has been transformed - before our eyes - into an outright plutocracy... major media serve only multinational corporations... the will of the majority no longer matters... we don't live in a democracy.

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Postscript: Year One

  • "We are resolved to rout out terror wherever it exists to save the world from freedom!"
  • We might call him an aggressive solipsist: he is what he is, knows what he knows, and who cares what you think?
  • America and the Third World War. (Osama bin Laden)... '... For the Islamists there can be no compromise or coexistence with Western civilization."... believers versus infidels... "good versus evil."
  • ... most westerners don't have a clue about the long bloodbath of 1096-1271, while Muslims can't forget about it. (Many westerners don't have a memory of historical events before last week.)
  • "Islam is a religion in which God requires you to send your son to die for him. Christianity is a faith in which God sends his son to die for you." (Ashcroft)
  • In short, the founders (our forefathers) might see something un-American about this "war on terrorism." It is a jihad by another name - and one that has entailed a broad executive attack upon the very freedoms that would make this democracy worth fighting for. In this way too the Bush team is a pale reflection of the radical Islamist network that would also crack down hard on any dissidence... such a junta does not champion our "freedom." On the contrary, its aim appears to be to (as it were) "cower our society" and "undermine its openness and its freedom and its ability to dissent."

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Recommended Reading

  • Gitlin, Todd, Media Unlimited: How the Torrent of Images and Sounds Overwhelms Our Lives (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2002).

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