James Clay Fuller

Things We're Not Supposed to Say

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Fox: Madness and sedition

Fox finally has gone too far.

We, the public, need to grab the fox by the throat and cut off its air supply, and by that I mean its money supply. The billions of dollars that pour daily into the pockets of Rupert Murdoch, the megalomaniac who owns Fox and its parent, News Corporation, must be seriously reduced, and only we, the public, can make that happen.

In “coverage” of the upheaval in Egypt -- read, as usual, propaganda from an extreme right perspective -– Fox “News” moved during the past week beyond mere metaphorical craziness and hyper partisanship into genuine insanity and sedition.

The parallels between the increasingly mad Howard Beale character in the 1976 film “Network” and Fox's Glenn Beck have become too real to be in the least amusing.

Day after day, Beck strides his set at Fox and rants, spit sometimes spraying from his mouth, his puffy face often growing red and his eyes crazily wide, waving his arms and looking and sounding more each week like somebody who is about to crack up before millions of viewers.

I am no longer sure, as I was sure and as many others think, that this is merely a case of an extreme cynic building his fortune and his power by misleading the ignorant and gullible with the carefully planned theatrics of a tent revivalist.

As the unpredictable and riveting events in Egypt unfolded this past week, I turned periodically to Fox to see what it was doing.

Until Friday morning, by the far the best television coverage from Egypt came from MSNBC, its coverage guided by the superb NBC chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel. It was followed fairly closely at times by CNN. The Murdoch gang's straight coverage was mostly OK, though the network devoted less time to Egypt than other big outlets.

But Beck clearly had lost touch with planet Earth. (He was not entirely alone in his thrashing around in a universe that doesn't exist; more of that shortly.) Anyone still taking him seriously as a source of information now believes that the Obama administration and numerous liberal American and European organizations and individuals planned and organized the spontaneous eruption of Egypt's people and are using it to bring about the destruction of this country and Israel (or Thiscountryandisrael; one word, one entity).


At least that's what Beck seemed to be saying with his flailing and sputtering gibberish.

On MSNBC Thursday, host Lawrence O'Donnell, and frequent guest and Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson and another guest whose name I didn't get laughed out loud at Beck's ravings, especially the latter's assertion at some point during his diatribes that Code Pink, the woman-run antiwar organization, is behind what Beck is sure is the deliberate destruction of a wonderful ally of Americaandisrael.

I understand the impulse. More than once I also burst out laughing while listening to Beck during the past few days, though more out of astonishment at the depth of his madness rather than from amusement. But it's not funny, and it's no longer enough to mock the man. He's demented, but his words somehow still affect and even dictate the opinions of millions of pitifully ignorant Americans.

Other Fox "pundits" have compounded the damage done by Fox to this country over the past several days, whether out of true craziness or what I believe is unmitigated cynicism and self serving.

Other than Babbling Beck, the worst that I saw was Sean Hannity, who declared at one point that President Obama and other members of his administration are knowingly being guided in their actions toward Egypt by “agents of the Muslim Brotherhood.” No kidding. Hannity said that, and, like Beck, added that the goal fully supported by the U.S. president is an Islamic world government.

This goes beyond what rational people normally think of as the “craziness” of Fox and this country's extreme political right, which now includes a frightening number of members of Congress.

Large segments of the American public and some of people actually involved in our country's governance have gone into regions that reality cannot penetrate and where facts, no matter how demonstrable, have no weight.

There is serious danger that this country will be brought down by an internal army of the ignorant, and Fox is a powerful force in taking us in that direction.

Remember: Millions of people believe the Democrat-passed health care reform bill establishes a “death panel” to determine who lives and who dies. Every credible news source in the country has shown beyond doubt that the concept is a deliberate lie, but Fox continues to repeat it daily, and so the suckers believe it. The same thing is happening now with the even wilder lies now told about Obama and Islam.

Rational discourse on issues confronting this country is becoming almost impossible because Fox's lies and misdirection have confused and fooled millions of Americans. And no democracy can stand without rational discourse.

Like a Jim Jones, or any big-time con man, Fox's gurus frequently tell their followers, “Believe only us, don't listen to anyone else” and the followers obey. They're now at a state in which they are willing, even eager, to undermine the government of the United States at a word from Beck or Hannity or Bill O'Reilly. Fox's big names frequently let Republican politicians know during on air “interviews,” what their stances should be on various issues.

(“Don't you think that Obama is playing into the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood,” O'Reilly says. “Well, I don't know that that's exactly right,” says the politician. O'Reilly leans forward and stares at the pol: “But don't you think that....” And the politician gets the message and agrees.)

The listeners believe, because they are told, it's about saving America. In fact, it's about power and money. Murdoch and his underlings have no more moral core than a narcotics mob boss or international arms peddler.

Through News Corporation and various related corporations, Murdoch owns Fox “News,” and 36 television stations in 26 markets, according to the most recent count I could find. He also owns the Wall Street Journal, 20th Century Fox film studio and a legion of other Fox television and print enterprises, including Fox Sports channels. And that's just in this country.

In my home town, Minneapolis, and its sister city, St. Paul, Minnesota's capital, he has, in addition to the usual Fox “News” cable channel, two local television stations (KMSP, Ch. 9 and WFTC, Ch. 29) and Fox Sports North, which is the main television home of the Minnesota Twins.

All of those outlets make their millions, or billions, by selling advertising. The advertisers are self identified. If the madness is to be reined in, the only thing that can be done is to pressure the advertisers to take their money elsewhere.

We need a whole lot of volunteers –- we need to be volunteers -- to sit before our televisions and list as many advertisers as possible on each Fox television outlet and, though it's less important, every Murdoch-owned publication. We need to find the addresses of the company headquarters of the advertisers. And we need to share that information with each other.

Then we must, by the tens of thousands, write the advertisers and tell them that no matter how much we like their products, we will not buy them so long as they are advertised on any Fox/Murdoch/News Corporation venue.

If you can't face writing a hundred advertisers, or even five, then write one. Please. This is important beyond almost anything else you might do in a given day, and it takes only 10 minutes to write a note with the simple message, address it and send it. You can copy the same note over and over and simply change the adressee. All you have to say is, “So long as you advertise on any Fox television outlet or in any Murdoch-owned publication, I and my family will refuse to purchase your products.”

Oh – and the right wingers who may see this needn't bother yelling at me about censorship. Since I, and we the public, have no standing as government officials it is, by definition, not censorship to refuse to do business with a corporation that offends you. Boycotts long have stood as an honorable way for individuals, alone and collectively, to combat the might of corporations and despots.

(A very unlikely, but possible, side benefit could be that forcing Fox/Murdoch to act with a modicum of human decency might actually save the life of mad Glenn Beck.)

There are limits to "civility"

We hear a great deal about the need for “civility” in public discourse these days, but have you noticed that although the most abusive rhetoric unquestionably comes from the political right, the admonitions tend to be couched in such a way as to pretend equal guilt on right and left?

The major effect of the “civility” campaign so far has been to discourage liberals and progressives from making any sharp criticism of the right, no matter how deserved or how nasty the sounds coming from that direction.

Sorry, I'm not playing.

The madmen and cynical power-seekers of Fox “News” and their followers, in or out of Congress, deserve no respect. There is nothing to gain by behaving toward them as though their crazy utterances are worthy of serious consideration. On the contrary, to accept foolishness as rationality makes one look foolish.

I think the best way to address them is with disbelief and the mockery they have so assiduously earned.

To be clear: I am not advocating shouting them down or behaving in any way that might be taken as threatening. That's how the right behaves.

If someone tells you they “know” something that is on the face of it untrue and irrational, ask them where they got that idea. If they say Glenn Beck or Sean Hannity or Bill O'Reilly or even John Boehner, look at them in disbelief and say something like: “You have to be kidding,” and turn your back on them.

If one of the Foxnuts tries to argue, or to insert himself/herself into a conversation on public affairs, tell them that input consisting of Fox fiction is not acceptable because it can add nothing to rational discourse.

And, yes, it may cause you some trouble.

I told a guy who was sort of a friend – more a friend of friends – that I didn't want to hear from him any more because his Fox-derived attitudes and opinions are unacceptable to rational human beings. That was after he forwarded to me a couple of right-wing fictions about the evils of Islam and how all Muslims are out to destroy the United States and all of Christendom. The conclusion of the diatribes was that we must deny citizenship and even residency to Muslims, even those whose families have been citizens for generations.

He also ranted to me about how this country is in immediate danger of falling under sharia law. And he was outraged that I dismissed that fear by pointing out that Muslims make up less than 2 percent of the U.S. population and that, in fact, the vast majority of that tiny minority are demonstrably loyal U.S. citizens, many of whom have served in our armed services.

In truth, it's not much of a loss. And I know that others have since felt freer to reject the foolishness of that particular Foxnut.

Mockery and rejection are our best defenses.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Arabs; What will Israel do?

The really big questions about what's going to happen in the Arab world haven't been asked yet, at least not by any of the American corporate media.

Once it became clear that the Tunisian rebels were going to win, it was inevitable that Egypt would follow. (I did say that to a few people before the demonstrations started in Egypt.)

Saturday afternoon, there was a crawl at the bottom of the screen on MSNBC saying that demonstrations had begun in Jordan. No further information was immediately provided.

A voice broadcast from Saudi Arabia was cut off before MSNBC's correspondent could begin answering questions about what is going on there. Probably just technical difficulties, as an MSNBC anchor said. By Sunday, we learned that the Saudi rulers have voiced support for Egyptian "president" Hosni Mubarak, though it is not clear yet if that means material support will be provided. Probably not.

It is possible that both Jordan and Saudi Arabia soon will be in the midst of revolution, though it is hardly certain. Like Tunisia and Egypt, they are run by authoritarian, extremely repressive governments that have long been propped up by the United States through massive dollar and arms infusions.

Saudi Arabia and Jordan are in different positions than either Tunisia or Egypt, both of which have been boiling just under the surface for a long time. So have Arabia and Jordan, of course, but the populations of the latter countries less are victimized by extreme poverty such as exists in the two already exploding countries. And Jordan and Arabia are smaller, easier to control than Egypt. The Saudi “security” forces are, if anything, even more brutal and efficient than those of Egypt.

It's a tossup at this moment as to whether the Jordanian and Saudi governments will be thrown out, I think. But what about Yemen and Algeria? No one can say at this point.

It is an extremely dangerous situation for this country and its European allies. The odds of it being resolved in anything close to acceptable manner for this country, or at least its politicians, seem small.

The countries now in revolt are not extreme Islamist states. The populations, though they tend to be religious, also generally have favored secular government. But that was true of Iran, too, before 1979.

Over and over, governments of the United States, whether controlled at any given time by Republicans or Democrats, have created and supported vicious, repressive governments elsewhere in the world, most notably in the Middle East and Latin America. Inevitably, the people trying to live under the heels of those governments explode at some point; they're not always successful at overthrowing their oppressors, but sometimes they are.

Our politicians, led, bullied and made fearful by the heads of corporations that profit hugely from exploiting the countries of the dictators and oligarchies, repeat the same mistakes, decade after decade –- or, one could reasonably say now, century after century.

The people of those countries know that the United States is largely responsible for their miseries; they may be poor, but they are not stupid.

So almost always, when the bullies and “strong men” are overthrown, the new governments are hostile to this country.

How could it be otherwise?

Today, in the streets of Cairo and Alexandria, Egyptians are holding up the depleted tear gas cannisters that were fired at them by their hated government's security forces and pointing to the “made in the U.S.A.” labels.

Also inevitably, the punks, thugs and gangsters that exist everywhere have started looting in the major Egyptian cities. And, just as similar organizations have done everywhere there is trouble in the Middle East, the extremist Muslim Brotherhood is rapidly organizing to protect residents and small business owners against the thugs, and thus establishing itself as an organization to turn to for security and help in dangerous times.

If Hosni Mubarak goes quickly, and if his hand-picked Number Two, Omar Suleiman, isn't immediately rejected (or has the good sense to step down in turn), Egypt might come out of the current mess with a rational government. I wouldn't bet the house on it, but it's possible.

If Mubarak hangs on too long, or if Suleiman, the long-time “security” chief, decides that he can rule in Mubarak's place, it's pretty clear that an unstable government hostile to the West will emerge. Mubarak managed to kill or drive out all potential opposition during his 30-year reign. There is no opposition party or figure ready to step in. But the mad Islamists are ready.

And, again, we could see the same thing happening quickly in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.

Turn to the executives of the multi-national corporations and to the weak-kneed politicians of both major parties and say, “Thanks for the chaos and the threat to our safety.”

But also give some thought to a big question entirely ignored thus far:

Faced with an Arab world turned truly hostile and dangerous, what will Israel do?

The plain fact, never to be mentioned in this country, is that Israel could have had peace long before now, but it's leaders never wanted peace as most of the western world thinks of it. From the day Israel was established, it has been governed almost continually by people who want to expand its territory, push out or otherwise eliminate Palestinian residents of nearby territories and control the region, with or without strongman Arab allies.

If extreme Islamist governments control two, three, four or more Arab countries in the region, Israel will be faced with a genuine external threat, as opposed to the threats it continually manufactures to gin up support in this country and elsewhere.

A genuinely threatened Israel is a fearful thing to contemplate. Its leaders are no more stable than their Islamic counterparts. What might they do? Starting a war of pre-emption is a distinct possibility. That might well include hitting their Arab neighbors with nuclear weapons.

That will seem wildly far-fetched to most Americans. I don't think it is. Remember that Israeli officials have pressed this country at times to attack Iran.

And if it happens, what will this country do? There is in this country a huge bloc of support for Israel no matter what it does, and the majority of Americans still seem to believe that we must support Israel in all situations. Many Americans still see Israel as the poor little victim of Arab hostility -– despite its massive military might, created through the generosity of our corporations and politicians and billions of our tax dollars.

Better think about these things now. At the rate the revolutions are developing, there may not be much time to figure out where you stand and what to do about it.