What We’re Up Against

The elites, the blacklist, and the “mainstream” media

by , May 18, 2011

As Antiwar.com struggles with another fund-raising campaign – which seems to be failing even as I write – I was struck, Tuesday morning, by cartoonist Ted Rall’s piece detailing the slide in his career:

“In the late 1990s my cartoons ran in Time, Fortune and Bloomberg Personal magazines and over 100 daily and alternative weekly newspapers. I was a staff writer for two major magazines.

“Then Bush came in. And 9/11 happened. The media gorged on an orgy of psychotic right-wing rhetoric. Flags everywhere. Torture suddenly OK….

“McCarthyism–blackballing–made a big comeback. I had been drawing a monthly comic strip, ‘The Testosterone Diaries,’ for Men’s Health. No politics. It was about guy stuff: dating, job insecurity, prostate tests, that sort of thing. They fired me. Not because of anything I drew for them. It was because of my syndicated editorial cartoons, which attacked Bush and his policies. … Desperate and going broke, I called an editor who’d given me lots of work at the magazines he ran during the 1990s. “Sorry, dude, I can’t help,” he replied. ‘You’re radioactive.’”

Early in the “war on terror,” Rall was the target of a smear campaign in the blogosphere carried out by idiotic partisan hacks like Glenn Reynolds and Charles Johnson (of the anti-Muslim hate-site “Little Green Footballs”), who attacked his opposition to the Iraq war and the Bush regime’s assault on civil liberties as “pro-terrorist.” And, as we can see, they were successful in turning Rall into a “radioactive” cartoonist without much of an audience or an income.

This is how the Smear Brigade works: they run in packs, and turn their fire on the intended target in unison. Their weapon of choice: the argument ad hominem. Rall is an “extremist,” a “Bush-hater,” a “left-wing terrorist-loving radical” whose opinions must be summarily dismissed because of who and what he supposedly is. It’s a logical fallacy, but an effective “talking point.”

Surely, then, with the election of President Barack Obama, the “progressive” beacon of Hope & Change, Rall’s long dark nightmare was over – right?

Wrong.

“It was tempting,” writes Rall, “when Obama’s Democrats swept into office in 2008, to think that the bad old days were coming to an end. I wasn’t looking for any favors, just a swing of the political pendulum back to the Clinton years when it was still OK to be a liberal…. I didn’t count on the cult of personality around Barack Obama.”

Rall goes on to detail rejections from the Nation, Mother Jones, and other “progressive” outlets. The reason?

“Now there’ s a new cause for refusal: Too tough on the president. I’ve heard that from enough ‘liberal’ websites and print publications to consider it a significant trend. A sample of recent rejections, each from editors at different left-of-center media outlets:

“’I am familiar with and enjoy your cartoons. However the readers of our site would not be comfortable with your (admittedly on point) criticism of Obama.’

“’Don’t be such a hater on O and we could use your stuff. Can’t you focus more on the GOP?’

“’Our first African-American president deserves a chance to clean up Bush’s mess without being attacked by us.’

“I have many more like that."

I’ll bet he does.

“Can’t you focus more on the GOP?”

Translation: Why can’t you follow the party line, comrade?

At least the attack dogs of the Glenn Reynolds -“warbloggers” crowd were upfront about their motives and methods: they disagreed with Rall, and sought to isolate and punish him for his views. These “progressive” editors and publishers, however, assure Rall he is “on point” in his critique of the Obama administration’s foreign policy, but complain that their readers’ delicate sensibilities might be offended. One even plays the race card – now isn’t that a cheap shot!

At least during the Bush administration we had a “mainstream” media that was partially awake, if only in order to ambush a Republican White House – not that their bias allowed them to see through the “weapons of mass destruction” con game, or challenge the “evidence” that Saddam Hussein was behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks. They came in late in the game, when sites such as Antiwar.com, former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, and former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter had already exposed the hoax at the center of the War Party’s propaganda, but in the end they came around.

Today, however, as Rall’s example dramatizes, things are worse: much worse. The intellectual and political atmosphere of lockstep conformity – especially, I would argue, in the realm of foreign policy – is just as strictly enforced as ever, as Rall has found out.

As for us here at Antiwar.com: our nominal allies, the “progressive” antiwar movement of yesteryear, have deserted us in droves. As long as it’s not a Republican President slaughtering innocent civilians, as long as it’s “our first African-American president” invading the Muslim world, as long as their team is in power – well, then, it’s okay, everything’s hunky-dory, and please don’t rock the boat.

I imagine my politics are quite different from Rall’s, but we both face the same conundrum: how to speak truth to power when the powerful control the media, the money, and the “mainstream.”

Oh, so you want us to get out of Afghanistan – well, that’s just not “mainstream,” don’tcha know?!

You say you’re sick of endless war, and America’s emerging police state? What are you – some kind of rabid “extremist”?

The smear campaign against me I don’t mind so much: it’s too absurd to be taken seriously, and, besides that, I never sought to become a “mainstream” media “star.” I have to say, however, when I was purged as a blogger from the Huffington Post, the reasons given to me by cult-follower Arianna Huffington were quite explicit: I’m too hard on Israel. A letter-writing campaign to get me off the site was apparently quite successful.

I can live without being one of Arianna’s unpaid blog-slaves: the point is that, in Arianna’s world, the arbiters of political correctness and good taste have divined that I’m a purveyor of “conspiracy theories,” to use her phrase. That’s code for any opinion that holds our elites responsible for the present state of the world. If Arianna wanted to stay a member in good standing of that elite – she once boasted about having the President’s personal phone number ensconced in her legendary Blackberry – I had to go, and go I did.

Antiwar.com has never gotten a blessed dime from any big foundation, left or right. A recent attempt by someone affiliated with a major libertarian foundation that sponsors interns to work with us was vetoed by “headquarters” – no names here, but you get the idea. One would think that a web site of this type, with an entire stable of articulate and readily available writers, would garner lots of face time in the cable news universe, where foreign policy matters are now all the rage: and you would be wrong. There’s only one side of the “debate” that’s allowed to appear in television, for the most part, and that’s the War Party’s side.

Aside from the media blackout, however, there’s another side to the dominance of the Obama cult in “progressive” circles that is having a significant effect on Antiwar.com’s fortunes: fund-raising. Our current fund-raising campaign is, so far, an absolute disaster. On the morning of the second day of the campaign, we had less than $3000 raised. If this goes on, we will be forced to close down in the very near future – it’s as simple as that.

The intellectual atmosphere of this country, especially when it comes to the question of war and peace, is absurdly narrow: we are faced with a “choice” between partisan brands of interventionism, between the unilateral belligerency of the neoconservative right and the self-righteous “multi-lateral” interventionism of the Obama crowd. The two factions, however, are variations on a single theme of American (or Western) global hegemony, a “world order” ruled from Washington, London, and Paris. A multinational “elite” which owes loyalty to nothing but its own power and privileged existence has detached itself from the common herd: while the rest of us struggle to survive at the bottom. The aristocrats of the global order, who live in state-supported- and-subsidized luxury, are concentrated in the Imperial City of Washington, D.C., where they hand the media their “talking points.” These pundits and “journalists” are little more than servitors of the royal court.

Indeed, the media is part and parcel of this elite class. Here’s Andrew Sullivan, the noted blogger and former “warblogger,” now a big Obama fan, writing about the elite’s knee-jerk defense of accused rapist and IMF chief honcho Dominique Strauss-Kahn:

“Elites find it hard to believe the worst of our own – just as families do members of their kin.”

I read this, and thought: “Our own?” Is this alleged journalist, supposedly committed to “no party or clique,” really coming out as a full-fledged, self-conscious member of The Elite? Well, as it turns out, yes:

“I think of my own initial refusal to believe that someone I knew and liked and whose hospitality I had enjoyed – Don Rumsfeld – could have approved freezing human beings to near-death or drowning them to near-death repeatedly or slamming them against walls or contorting their bodies into soul-breaking stress positions, honed by the Gestapo. But the evidence is clear: he approved these things. Even now, one wants to believe he didn’t really understand what he was doing. But friendship – and an elite’s sense of its own decency – distorts the judgment.”

So while Sullivan was approvingly writing about the policies Rumsfeld and his gang of gung-ho neocons were carrying out in the name of the “war on terrorism,” the pundit who supposedly models himself after George freakin’ Orwell was cavorting with Rummy, and considered him – still considers him – a “friend”! So what’s a little war waged under false pretenses among friends? C’mon, give Rummy a break – after all, he’s one of us. One of the Washington Elite. Sullivan only turned against his former “friends” when their views became too unpopular, and another Leader took the old Leader’s place.

The media-government industrial complex – hey, I’ve coined a new catchphrase! – is a force to be reckoned with in today’s America, and make no mistake: it sets the agenda, it defines the issues, it smites its enemies and rewards its sycophants. During the Kosovo war, Christiane Amanpour – an alleged “journalist” – was “covering” the war her husband (James Rubin, then the State Department’s spokesman) and his bosses were prosecuting. These days, reporters swoon over Obama, party with administration bigwigs, and then go out and “report” on the president’s policies. With perfect “objectivity,” to be sure….

Without independent journalism – that is, journalism free of cant, of “elite” connections, of corporate control – there can be no democracy, no liberty, and certainly no peace. We won’t have a change in our crazed foreign policy until and unless we have a news media worthy of the name.

The lack of such a media is the reason for Antiwar.com’s existence. During the Kosovo war, we found that the facts just weren’t being reported – and so we undertook to do the job ourselves. In the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, we saw how the media simply repeated the government’s official line and reduced itself to acting as a mere stenographer of Power – and so we filled the gap and did the job of ferreting out and reporting the facts ourselves.

For fifteen years, our readers have supported us in our efforts to present the truth about Washington’s foreign policy of global intervention to the American people. We don’t depend on eccentric billionaires or big foundation grants to pay our bills, we don’t spend millions (like the big pro-war think-tanks do) pushing our agenda, we don’t have Friends in High Places pulling strings and writing checks – we just have you, our readers and supporters, normal average everyday people who care about the issues and want to get the truth out there.

Have you deserted us?

I’m not actually supposed to be sitting here at this computer, typing madly away: my doctors have told me to take a rest, or else face unspecified-albeit-probably-horrific consequences. I don’t want to get much more specific about my symptoms, but suffice to say they are sufficiently alarming that even I – a firm believer in my own invincibility – am getting a little scared. But no matter. I don’t have time to deal with it, and I’d rather not. This isn’t about me, it’s about what I helped create: an institution that will hopefully live on after I’m gone.

Antiwar.com is quite an achievement, and it isn’t mine: it belongs to our very hardworking staff, our perpetually besieged Webmaster, and to you. Yes, you – because, if you’ve ever given us a dime while trying to pay your own bills with some difficulty, you’ve earned the title of “owner” alongside the thousands of others who have donated their money and their efforts to promote this web site.

This is your web site – are you going to let it go down?

The blacklisting and smear campaign Ted Rall writes about is all too real, and it is very effective. The War Party has a lot to lose if their plans for perpetual conflict are somehow overturned, and they aren’t about to let a bunch of “amateurs” and Little People like us stand in their way. They, after all, are The Elite. Just ask Andrew Sullivan.

We all remember what happened to Marie Antoinette, and the same fate hopefully awaits our own would-be royalty and self-proclaimed aristocrats. In the meantime, however, they are not only on top, but it looks like they’ll stay on top unless us plebeians begin to fight back. Yet we can’t fight unless we have a platform, a means to spread our message of liberty and peace – and that has been our task at Antiwar.com, a task we have carried out faithfully and – I would say – quite successfully. We reach hundreds of thousands of people all over the world with our message that there is another way to conduct American foreign policy, one that doesn’t transform the greatest liberal democracy on earth into the world’s greatest threat to peace.

We’ve done our part – and we’ve been doing it for many years. Now it’s your turn. We need your tax-deductible contribution, and we need it now.

Don’t let the self-described “elite” monopolize the media: let the voice of peace be heard. Contribute today.

NOTES IN THE MARGIN

Oh yeah, before I forget….

I was riffling through my archives the other day, and came upon a series of 1999 pieces on the mysterious crash of EgyptAir flight 990, which I had completely forgotten about. In three columns, I wondered aloud if the alleged “suicide” of the Egyptian pilot was an act of terrorism, in spite of the US government’s denials, and I raised a number of questions about the strange gaps and anomalies in the official story. Here is an excerpt from one of them:

“These questions will lead to others, which will lead directly to – Antiwar.com. Not that we have all the answers. What we do have, however, is a good deal of the information that can lead you to your own answers. Whatever the ultimate answer to the growing problem of terrorism, it must be preceded by the following realization: the American people cannot and will not live in terror just so our rulers can flaunt their arrogance on a global scale. If the downing of EgyptAir flight 990 is an act of terrorism, there ought to be hell to pay – not in Afghanistan, but right here in the good old USA. For as the war in Kosovo and the martyrdom of Iraq have made all too clear, the world capital of terrorism is not the mountain fastness of Osama bin Laden, but the imperial city of Washington D.C.”

At the time, the feds were saying they didn’t have the resources to translate the pilot’s final radio transmissions, to which I responded:

“The idea that the federal government lacks translators to review the voice recording is laughable – for those whose sense of humor is definitely on the mordant side. You can be sure that the feds know what is on that recording, and are even now deciding how and when to tell the rest of us. More ominously, they are deciding what action to take in response to what is clearly a terrorist attack. Don’t be surprised to see a sudden US military strike against the forces of Osama bin Laden – or individuals and groups described as such – and possibly a full-scale assault on Afghanistan. Stayed logged on to Antiwar.com for fast-breaking developments. And fasten your seatbelts – we’re in for a bumpy ride.”

As indeed it was, and still is.

The above was written two years before 9/11, and there’s more where that came from. Back then, Antiwar.com was pointing to the threat of terrorism as “blowback” from US foreign policy when practically no one else was. The Arianna Huffingtons of this world may disdain realist analyses of State actions as “conspiracy theories,” the brunt of jokes around the bar at Davos, but then again these are the same people who were caught flat-footed on 9/11.

Go read those old columns of mine – and tell me you haven’t been getting the very best analysis, the kind that opens a window on the all-too-probable future, right here at Antiwar.com. And send us that donation today.

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