The Sleeping Giant Stirs
|“We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be
driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and
our doctrine; and remember that we are not descended from fearful men. Not
from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate, and to defend causes
that were for the moment unpopular... We can deny our heritage and our
history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result."
Edward R. Murrow
“The Americans will always do the right thing” Winston Churchill once remarked, “after they’ve exhausted all the alternatives.”
The American public may be running out of alternatives. If so, the Bush Administration and the Republicans have reason to be very worried.
It is all too easy to despair over the ignorance and gullibility of “the American mind.” This is a public, after all, a majority of which rejects the theory of evolution – the central coordinating concept of the biological sciences. In addition, the National Science Foundation reports that more than a third of Americans believe in UFOs and that astrology “has scientific merit.”
And yet, amazingly, at many crucial moments in our history, public opinion has somehow moved toward a wise and appropriate point of view.
For example, public support for the Vietnam war eroded until eventually the war was unsustainable. Richard Nixon’s landslide re-election in 1972 was no use to him when, less than two years later, the full extent of his “crimes and misdemeanors” became known and he was forced from office.
Throughout his presidency, Bill Clinton was hounded by a hostile press, while $70 million of taxpayers’ money was expended in search of a crime to fit the punishment. Eventually he was caught in a sexual indiscretion. It was then widely assumed that Clinton’s public approval scores would drop into the basement. Instead, “the hunting of the president” backfired as Clinton’s high approval scores held steady, while those of his tormentor, Kenneth Starr, plummeted.
And so right now, something remarkable is taking place. At long last, however belatedly, the public is beginning to appreciate the shallowness and incompetence of George Bush and the unparalleled mendacity and corruption of his administration. Moreover, it has arrived at this realization on its own, despite the determination of the captive mainstream media to hide these manifest failures from the public, through distraction, non-reporting, and occasionally through outright lies.
For five years, the Rovian smoke and mirrors have worked spectacularly well. A majority of the public was persuaded that Saddam Hussein had Weapons of Mass Destruction, was somehow behind the 9/11 attacks and was an active agent of al Qaeda. At the same time, the skeletons of Bush’s past – his AWOL from the Air National Guard, his business failures, his insider trading, his suspected drug use – were all kept hidden in the closet. A package of lies about Al Gore was concocted to “prove,” ironically, that Gore was a “serial liar.” John Kerry, an authentic war hero, was successfully portrayed as a coward and a fake.
Thus did the Bush message machine vanquish the Democratic opposition and reduce it to pathetic impotence. However, there was one adversary that Bush, Inc. could not defeat: reality. And at long last, reality is retaliating and the public is taking notice.
The failure of Bush’s FEMA to deal with the Katrina catastrophe can not be hidden forever from the public. Nor can the loss of manufacturing jobs and their export overseas. Nor can the rising price of gasoline and the obscene profits of the oil companies. Nor can the upward redistribution of national wealth from the producers to the owners of that wealth. Nor can the corruption and the consequent indictments or investigations of the malefactors: DeLay, Safavian, Frist, Libby, Abramoff, and now Tomlinson. Nor can the horrendous tales of torture in Bush’s Gulag. Nor can the shredding of our Constitution and the loss of our “inalienable rights.” Nor can the mounting casualties from the Iraq war, as they return home in caskets (“transfer tubes”) or with broken minds and bodies. And despite the media conspiracy of silence, the evidence of election fraud can not be suppressed. The unthinkable is becoming thinkable.
Moreover, the public has a memory. The weak but growing voice of the independent progressive media and internet has recorded and now broadcasts the lies in the voices of the liars: “Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction." (Cheney, August, 2002) "We know where [the WMDs] are. They are in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad." (Rumsfeld, May, 2003). "We found the weapons of mass destruction." (Bush, May, 2003).
Despite their self-congratulatory myth of rugged individualism, Americans are herd animals; they look around, then follow the crowd. When Bush’s approval scores were in the high eighties and the media were meekly and uncritically passing on the official lies, few dared to resist. Troublesome news, such as election fraud, foreign opposition, citizen protests, the looting of the treasury, and the Downing Street memos, were absent from the print and broadcasts of the mainstream media. Those in the media who did resist, like MSNBC’s Ashleigh Banfield and Phil Donanue, soon found themselves out of a job. Their example was not lost on the survivors. But now the beast is wounded and just a few of the bolder predators are coming out of the woods to investigate. At last, the hidden issues are beginning to come into play.
And the public? Ever so gradually, public opinion has shifted and now the critics and skeptics are in the majority. No longer can dissenters be successfully branded as traitors who “hate America.” More and more of us are remembering that America was born out of resistance to tyranny and has flourished through dissent and open debate. Protest is once again becoming fashionable, and there is a whiff of possible success in the air. The message of the American people to the media? “Lead, follow, or step out of the way. You have made yourselves irrelevant.”
When asked the secret of success in show business, George Burns replied: “sincerity – if you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” For five years, it worked for Bush and his gang, but now the public is finally seeing through the fakery. And once the politician loses his grip on the fakery – once he has lost the trust of the public -- he can never get it back.
And so, Bush’s approval and trust ratings are now in the mid-thirties, and heading south. According to the latest Washington Post/ABC poll, two-thirds of the public has a negative opinion of Bush’s ethics and believes that the country is headed in the wrong direction. Sixty percent believes that the Iraq war was a mistake. A majority doubts Bush’s honesty and integrity, and believes that Bush misled the country prior to the invasion of Iraq. And amazingly, a majority would want to see him impeached if it were proved (as is likely the case) that Bush lied to get the U.S. into the war.
Significantly, many GOP politicians and the media are beginning to sense that support of Bush and his administration is distinct liability – a liability that can cost the politicians their offices, and the media their audiences. Moreover, as the demise of the Miers nomination attests, the religious right is finally beginning to realize that they’ve been had, cynically kept on the GOP reservation with promises, such as the repeal of Roe v. Wade, that the GOP dare not fulfill.
Is it over for the Bush Administration? Don’t count on it. As I wrote at the outset: “at many crucial moments in our history” the American public gets it right. “At many crucial moments,” not all. There are no guarantees. And the Busheviks still have formidable weapons at their disposal as they struggle to maintain their grip on power.
Accordingly, this is no time for the opposition to sit at the sidelines, content to be spectators of the self-inflicted decline and fall of Bush, Inc. This malignant regime may not go over the precipice unless it is pushed.
What then is the ordinary citizen to do? The question requires a separate essay – several, in fact. But here are some brief suggestions.
Regarding election Fraud: Spread the word, person-to-person. Do your part to make respectable a skepticism of past elections and the demand for election reform. If the conspiracy of media silence is sustained and the paperless machines and secret software remain in place, the GOP won’t lose no matter what the voters have to say about it. If the fraud is exposed, they can’t win. It is just possible that if the polls forecast a Democratic blowout – say, twenty-plus percent – the GOP won’t dare to reverse the outcome. But beware: fake polls are not out of the question.
Thankfully, there is one institution that remains independent of Bushevik control: the criminal justice system. Thus the aforementioned criminal indictments, present and forthcoming. Herein may be the best hope for the restoration of honest and verifiable elections. In the United States, elections are administered at the local and state level. Surely there must be some prosecutors somewhere in the realm prepared to investigate this crime with the powerful instruments of subpoena, discovery and perjury threat. So let us, as concerned citizens, demand criminal investigation and prosecutions of the crime of voting fraud.
Put pressure on the media. Boycott the offending corporate media and their sponsors, and tell them that you are doing so. Demand that they investigate malfeasance of office and report “all the news that’s fit to print” about issues of public concern. And if they won’t, make them irrelevant. As Sinclair Broadcasting learned in the last election, if right-wing propaganda results in a loss of market-share, the management must answer to the stockholders.
Support the alternative independent media and the progressive internet – the last, best hope of a free press that the founders of our republic insisted was indispensable to a republic of free citizens.
Encourage progressive candidates to oppose the “GOP-lite” Democrats in the primaries. Even if the “Democrats in Name Only” (DINOs) win, they will be given a message: “represent us, or next time your done for!”
And write your Senators and Congress members, repeatedly. Send a constant stream of letters to the editor. Add your feet and voices to the public protests. Organize!
At the close of the 1970 movie, “Tora, Tora, Tora,,” Admiral Isoruko Yamamoto warns his staff: "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve." The words are those of the screenwriter, not the Admiral: there is no evidence that Yamamoto ever said this. No matter, the words fit our times.
Today, the great American public stirs. But will it awake? In the captive corporate media, there is no Edward R. Murrow or Walter Cronkite in evidence who will protest the evil issuing from the White House and the Congress, much less a media management willing to give them a microphone. There is no John Dean from inside this malignant regime that will step forward and volunteer to break open this criminal conspiracy – at least, not yet.
It is up to us, the American public, and it is possible that we the people are finally beginning to wake up. But there are no guarantees that we will prevail, restore our Constitution and our rights, and win back our country.
This is no time for each of us to stand alone, looking after our own diminishing self-interests, and privately but uselessly lamenting our fates. Echoing Jesus of Nazareth, Mohandas Gandhi spoke the truth that transcends political and religious boundaries: "He who loses his life will gain it; he who will seek to save it shall lose it. Freedom is not for the coward or the faint-hearted."
Copyright 2005 by Ernest Partridge
Conscience of a Progressive: A book in progress.
Partridge's Scholarly Publications. (The Online Gadfly)
Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He has taught Philosophy at the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin. He publishes the website, "The Online Gadfly" and co-edits the progressive website, "The Crisis Papers".