James Clay Fuller

Things We're Not Supposed to Say

Friday, March 25, 2011

Drowning in hypocrisy

American democracy is drowning in toxic hypocrisy.

It is so pervasive in what passes for public discourse that the average, ignorant American can't tell the phony from real, and even relatively informed individuals often confuse facade with structure.

President Barack Obama, pushed by Hillary Clinton and her “tough” wing of the administration, decides to start killing people in Libya. (To phrase it any other way – the ways politicians and the corporate press are describing what's happening, for example -- would be hypocritical.)

We don't know the real motivation for our entering the Libyan civil war; we're being fed the usual lines that almost certainly have little to do with reality. Nevertheless, we're in another shooting war to “save civilians from a brutal dictator.”

But we, the United States and its allies, stood mute earlier this month as the ruling Khalifa family of Bahrain used everything from clubs to U.S.-supplied tanks, machine guns and tear gas – and, as in Libya, foreign mercenaries paid, probably, with American dollars – to kill and maim protesters whose claims are as valid as those of the people fighting the government of Moammar Gadhafi (one of at least a half dozen possible spellings).

Indeed, our dearest “friend” in the Arab world, Saudi Arabia, sent troops to Bahrain to help crush the uprising there. Not one peep of protest did anyone hear from Obama, Clinton or any other western leader.

The difference?

Not concern for incipient democracy, for sure. As always in that region, it's oil.

International and U.S.-based oil companies are eager to wrest control of the oil fields – especially the big oil fields in the area where the Libyan rebellion is strongest – from Gadhafi.

No politician or military figure will say that straight out, of course, not even those who pass for liberals in the corporate media. Everybody plays the hypocrisy game.

Did you notice, by the way, how little news coverage there was of the uprising in Bahrain – none, or almost none in many newspapers – and how quickly it disappeared from the news in this country? Two days, three at most, and it was almost gone. Very few Americans even noticed that it happened.

Oh...And aside from one front page story in the New York Times, March 24, how much have you heard about the fact that at least a dozen companies in the oil racket kicked in to pay the $1.5 billion Gadhafi was assessed a few years back for his role in blowing up Pan Am Flight 103 and other terrorist attacks? http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/24/world/africa/24qaddafi.html?hpw

And isn't it interesting that the Times writers specifically wrote about the corruption of the Gadhafi mob, but made no straight reference to the corruption of oil companies that paid out that kind of money to the chief gangster in order to keep their grip on his oil.

There will, of course, be no mention of punishment for the oil executives who played that disgusting game, any more than for the bankers who nearly destroyed the U.S. economy, and who are financing the destruction of the U.S. middle class.

Ah, but some people of both corporation-backed political parties are standing up and talking straight about the fact that Obama failed to ask Congress for permission to start killing in Libya.

Only it's really not straight. Some Republicans who tried to fire up the political right's tea-party suckers by complaining that Obama wasn't doing anything in Libya – Newt Gingrich among others – now are complaining that he took action.

Once again, the bad thing from their viewpoint is whatever Obama does, even if it's something they demanded. Hypocrisy on a grand scale.

Listen to Newt talk out of both sides of his mouth on Libya before and after Obama acted:


The critics are right, of course, that a president is supposed to get Congressional agreement before committing the U.S. military to a foreign venture – or adventure. But the fact is that many of the same people who are expressing outrage at Obama found no problem with Bush/Cheney, or the other Bush, when they did the essentially same thing. A whole lot of those weasels are so hypocritically crooked you could screw them into the ground.

Hell, presidents of both parties have been getting our young people killed without asking anyone's permission ever since we got into the Korean War in the 1950s.

Oh, yes: Let's not forget that most American citizens come down on one side or the other of the debate over Congressional approval for war depending on whether they personally approve of a specific action, or a president. A whole lot of Democrats-for-life who are silent now would have screamed and marched in the streets if what Obama has done had been done by his predecessor. A whole lot of right wingers would like to be screaming now, but they feel that they have to approve all military involvements by this country; they've never heard of an American war they wouldn't support.

And about that news coverage:

Bahrain came and went on little cat feet.

The New York Times continues to run heavily slanted news stories on all sorts of subjects – most favoring the status quo, the existing power structure, the business elite – even as the same newspaper's editorials and op-ed articles take opposing viewpoints on some of those issues. The “news” stories get far higher readership, of course, as they always have in all newspapers.

And the hypocrisy is far more egregious in most local and regional newspapers. (Let's not even mention television, which has very little to do with actual news.)

Take my local birdcage liner.


The Star Tribune recently ran two op-ed pieces on the drive by Republican politicians to dismantle public employee unions and otherwise seriously damage state employees economically. One was a self-serving piece of tripe by one of the leaders of that effort, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

The other was by a guy named Scott Chalberg, identified as a teacher at a Twin Cities area community college. http://www.startribune.com/opinion/commentary/118542194.html

An opposing point of view? Go fish.

In the past couple of days, the Strib, as it is known around here, has run two stories on a newly-named University of Minnesota regent who failed to disclose on his application for the position that he already had an $80,000 a year part time job at the university. The first story laid that out, the second was based on the assertion of the regent, Steve Sviggum, that the application did not call for that revelation.

(The people checking him out as a possible regent didn't know or didn't want the public to know about his conflict of interest.)

What's interesting from the hypocrisy-watcher's point of view is that neither article mentioned that Sviggum, a rather far-right Republican, spent more than 20 years in the Minnesota House of Representatives, including substantial time as minority leader and as speaker of the House.

Regents are named by the State Legislature, of which both houses now are controlled by far right Republicans. Sviggum's appointment was controversial to begin with. It was part of a move by Republican legislators to put members of the political right in charge of the Board of Regents. They even broke a custom of many decades by refusing to appoint a labor representative (or, indeed, anyone of even mild liberal leaning) to the board.

When I sent a note to the writer of the two stories complaining about the missing facts of his political and legislative history, she replied, very politely, that she “forgot.”

As a veteran of 40-plus years in print journalism, I find that all but incomprehensible.

It does fit a pattern that, whether rooted in incompetence or deliberate political leaning, grows ever more obvious. Virtually everything in or on corporate news outlets now is written from the viewpoint of a government or corporate official. Most news stories involving large issues could easily be press releases from whatever establishment organization is involved. And the excuses for that seem ever more lame, more hypocritical.

We have to be the watchdogs, to call the “media” and the politicians on every omission or bending of fact, every substitution of myth for reality. It won't change the story every time, but if enough people make noise, it does have some positive effect.