Viewpoint: Patriotism or petrification?

July 1, 1993

Viewpoint: Patriotism or petrification?

By Joe Baker

Patriotism or petrification?

By Joe Baker

Senior editor

Jingoism has taken hold in a segment of the American media, and objectivity, critical thinking and investigative reporting are in danger.

Joan Konner, a professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York, writing in Newsday, proclaimed:

“A curtain of prescribed patriotism has dropped over our TV news screens, obscuring all but the most ratings-driven stories. …Even the barely readable and often dissonant crawl of ‘other news’ across the bottom of our screens is not reporting what’s going on backstage of the red-white-and-blue curtain of war and national security.”

Indeed the curtain of perverted, belligerent patriotism is obscuring many

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disturbing developments in our country. The effect of this myopia is perhaps felt initially by the alternative media or anyone who dares to think out loud about what’s going on.

Remember the absolutist “Love it or leave it” mantra from the Vietnam fiasco?

Witness the belligerent stance of the Media Research Center, which claims to be a conservative media watchdog. “We are training our guns,” says the Center, “on any media outlet or reporter interfering with America’s war on terrorism or (trying) to undermine President Bush.”

What sort of “research” is this? It certainly stinks of fascism. Konner reports the presidents of CBS and ABC already have gotten a case of the shakes from the baleful glare of Media Research. If Joe McCarthy could grin, he would be smiling ear to ear.

While the media indulge in covering the butter-fingered hunt for Osama bin Laden and other distractions, a number of serious issues are going begging. There is no serious analysis of Bush policies and practices.

As we have said before, there are dozens of questions surrounding the WTC attacks that are going unanswered. For that matter, there are still many unanswered questions about the bombing in Oklahoma City. The government’s pat explanations do not satisfy these queries, yet legislation has emerged from these two national tragedies that has done the most damage to civil rights, privacy rights—the Bill of Rights—in American history.

Few, if any, are looking into the $40 billion rip-off of Social Security to finance our flattening of Afghanistan and other adventures.

Who is probing the so-called economic stimulus that is nothing more than expanded corporate welfare and rewarding the very wealthy?

What about the secret energy policy, the decade’s major strawman—campaign finance reform—health care and looming deficits at the state and federal levels? There are also the first signs of serious cracks in the international banking system, beginning with Argentina and Japan.

Much of the American public has locked into Bush’s declaration that “either you’re with us, or you’re with the terrorists.” It implies that anyone who disagrees with Dubya’s policies is somehow un-American and un-patriotic.

Dissent is at the heart of true patriotism. It gave birth to this republic. Even in those days, the truth went through the stages described by Schopenauer. First, anyone against the king was ridiculed. Next, there was violent opposition (the Revolution) and finally, it was accepted as self-evident; freedom was better than servitude.

Bush’s statement raises the question “who are the terrorists?” There is yet no credible hard evidence that bin Laden masterminded the attacks. We have been offered only the government’s obviously bogus tape which has been lampooned even among our allies.

There is also the matter of the death of John O’Neill.

O’Neill was the former deputy director of the FBI. Two weeks before the WTC attack, he left his job with the bureau and became head of security at the twin towers. O’Neill had been actively investigating bin Laden and terrorism. He quit the FBI because he was disgusted with what he believed was obstructionism of his efforts by the Bush administration.

O’Neill was quoted in Bin Laden: The Forbidden Truth, a controversial new book by French intelligence analysts Charles Brissard and Guillaume Dasquie. The authors said he told them: “The main obstacles to investigate Islamic terrorism were U.S. oil corporate interests, and the role played by Saudi Arabia in it.”

O’Neill was bitter over his belief that the U.S. State Department and the oil lobby making up the president’s entourage had blocked his every effort to establish bin Laden’s guilt.

The book charges, based on O’Neill’s statements and other evidence, that the Bush administration impeded the investigation of bin Laden and al-Qaeda while dealing with the Taliban for construction of an oil pipeline across Afghanistan.

Was John O’Neill the man who knew too much, or was his death coincidence?

Against this sordid backdrop, we have the spectacle of exploitation of the aftermath of Sept. 11. Ground Zero has been converted to a profit-making tourist attraction! We sell tickets to visit the site and offer tasteless “souvenirs.” Movie stars and other celebrities are given police escorts there so they can stare as if seeing the face of evil. What more gross way of dishonoring and disrespecting the dead could be imagined?

Then there is the looming cataclysm of the Enron debacle. The media has just begun to pay attention to it, but they can’t yet see the ties between Enron, Bush and the GOP.

The oil-soaked connections there and with the events of 9-11, the Saudis, bin Laden, the Carlyle Group, Deutschbank-A.B., Russia, Kosovo and others, if revealed, will rock the foundations of this administration, maybe even topple it.

That’s why we’re seeing the president trying mightily to distance himself from the whole mess and why Vice President Cheney stubbornly refuses to release information to congressional investigators that might prove incriminating.

As Joan Konner wrote: “It is not just Dick Cheney, our fearless vice-president, who is hiding in a secure location because of the terrorist threat. The entire government, aided by the shield of the press, is concealing itself in the cave of crisis and war.”

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