Sunday, September 11, 2011

Faithful To Thee, America, In Our Fashion

This post is a reply to various tweets I received today on Twitter. It is an emotion-laden day for many people. If you bear with me, I will try to explain why this post is relevant to the focus of this blog.

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Watching TV

When I was very young I understood the power of communication and information. The battle for publishing the Pentagon Papers had been raging and was responsible for the Watergate Scandal which brought down Richard M. Nixon and Attorney General John Mitchell.

I also became aware of studies which stated that the downfall of the Soviet Union had more to do with the Beatles than all the missile silos and guns. A few years earlier I had seen the Kent State shootings on TV. I was aware of news editorials and commentary about the effect of television on ending the Vietnam War.

Clearly, information was powerful. I started looking for material by Marshall McLuhan, who was a household word at that time. My heroes were Walter Cronkite, Bob Woodward & Carl Bernstein, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley. I sat and watched the evening news with my parents and listened to what Howard K. Smith and Ted Koppel had to say. I read the diaries of Anne Frank and found out about Edward R. Murrow.

I thought it was a fine, American thing to be informed; to be an adult and make up my own mind about things; that this was the shining star of "being grown up" and I looked forward to it. Even at a young age, I began to study not just what I read, but the medium in which information was delivered to me. I felt bad for the people in other countries who had limited means of communication and were subject to slanted propaganda and were unable to make up their own minds because they were not given access to all the information necessary to do that (because this is what television, radio and magazines told me was happening in those countries).

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A New Hope

Over the last 25 or so years (most of my adult life) I have watched as television and radio, those bastions of free communication, have been suborned and subverted by corporate interests backed by government cooperation. I have watched the "news" turn into a platform for propaganda and distortion; I have seen how television and radio news has become weaponized and perverted from its natural function.

At the same time, I have given most of my life and energy to the internet. I have done this by choice.

I don't have a "career" per se. When I started hanging out on the nets, there were no "net-centric" careers. You just did it. I realized very early that the net was truly a revolutionary and transformative thing, so I began to study the network just as I had studied other cultures (the Lakota, the Kanaka) as a social anthropologist. I saw the implications: it was difficult to break into television or radio because of the high cost of entry, but the net offered almost everyone a chance to speak their piece. It was truly a democratic medium (yes, I know it depends on a certain level of affluence and access, but that has been rapidly changing).

I saw that it was not necessary any more to accept the tailored, slanted and propagandist "news" through "accepted channels"; I have spoken live with people (and watched webcam video) involved in the events in Sri Lanka, Iraq and other places. I have listened to voices of ordinary people tell me their stories.

I have seen the power of person-to-person communication, enough to dedicate my life to the study of communications and how the net affects almost everything. I think it is that important, even if I don't get paid.

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Info War

I have also watched the corporations closing in on the freedom of the net and the free exchange of information outside the Gatekeepers' control. I study the motivations and statements of the Gatekeepers; their rationalizations and their legal sophistries. I study the government policies in these areas and observe how the aim of the multinationals runs parallel to the interests of government in confining information to what is judged to be "appropriate" to the aims of both.

I have watched as these men treat me like a child, telling me that I am not adult nor mature enough to make up my own mind, given the facts. I have watched them try to hide information regarding military efforts, last-minute legal sessions to push through laws with no public awareness or involvement in the democratic processes, use fear and disinformation to distort threat levels, deliberately lie about the technology and functionality of the internet in order to sway and influence voters who are not techs and who do not understand the "facts" pushed at them are lies.

They think I have no memory. They think I have not understood the material I have studied for my entire adult life. They think that they, outsiders, can tell me more about my community and tribe then I myself have lived.

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Faithful to thee, America, in our fashion

I was promised something when I was a child. I was promised that living in the best, most-free country in the world, I had certain civic responsibilities to the sacrifice of thousands of men of good will and conscience who gave their lives and efforts to provide me with the freedoms I had as an American. I was promised that if I kept to these ideals; if I contributed to this great effort stretching from the Magna Carta through the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Of The Citizen to the US Declaration of Independence and all these others, I would be being a good citizen. I would be contributing to something so much larger than myself, the freedom of mankind to live and prosper, and in turn, those ideals and my efforts would make the world a better place.

When I pledged my allegiance to the Flag in my 6th grade classroom, these were the emotions of my heart.

I did not pledge my allegiance to corporate interests, nor did I pledge my allegiance to sinister men of sociopathic character who would twist the words of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights to selfish and nefarious purposes. I did not pledge my allegiance to clever men who would twist the words of law to pervert the intent of laws when the intent of such laws could be clearly perceived by even a 6th grader.

I find such men to be the antithesis of the American Dream I was sold as a child and believed in with all of my heart. I find such men to be the kind of men who inspired the revolutions of old against tyranny and oppression. I find such men evil in intent and heart, full of sophistry and lies, self-deception and ill-will towards their fellow man. I feel that this is a very American way to feel.

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The Right To Bear Information

I do worry about policies like Google's (Nymwars) or the NSTIC, having seen the twisting and suborning of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 and the rest of the documents linked here under "Legal" in the right-hand index.

I am no child to be spoon-fed my opinions or kept from hard or inconvenient truths. I am no wilting flower to be protected from the information I need to decide my feelings, opinions and stances on world events or politics, nor am I a mark or a dolt to be steered towards a loaded game in order to be relieved of my money or attention or opinion. I won't be crumpling to my knees and sobbing because some anonymous loud-mouthed troll posts a comment on my blog (that's what "delete" and filtering are for) and I certainly won't demand their "real life name" for a comment on a marginal blog.

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I still hang on to my battered, abused, torn and tattered faith in the general good nature of most human beings, free of manipulation and coercion. I believe strongly in the power of information and access to it are one of the most crucial issues any honest society faces unless it is to be turned into a de facto serfdom or puppet dictatorship. I was taught, and accepted and believed, that the purpose of civilization was to use my mind to its full extent for the betterment of the world and my society and myself.

I reserve the right to feel horrible today as an American not only for the people whose lives were taken in the events of September 11, 2001 but how their deaths have been used in the most cynical, degrading, disgusting and evil way in the last 10 years to destroy the very liberties and rights that those people stood for when they lived. I feel that if those people could see what has been done in their name, they would scream and vomit.

This column is for them; those poor people who died in a terrible attack and have been used so shamelessly as a weapon to destroy the American Dream far more than Al-Queda or any "middle eastern terrorist" could have ever hoped.

And I will be damned if I will lay down without a fight while these same manipulative, spider-hearted men (and women) try to destroy or subvert the Last Free Press. I will speak and I will write about what I know, what information I can find and where it is and for people's right to access all the information they need in order to form an opinion on the crucial issues of our lives and times; I will be true to the spirit that those poor folks died believing in.

Viva la Information Revolution.

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*the title of this post is in homage of the story "Faithful To Thee, Terra, In Our Fashion" by James Tiptree, Jr. first published in Galaxy Jan. 1969 and in the collection "Ten Thousand Light Years from Home"