Do you really know what media is, or how it works? Do you know media’s politics?
Here is my two cents. I have actually studied media ethics, and even got some acclaim, when I studied journalism at the well-known Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. I’d like to share my observations with you.
Media — like New York Times, CNN, Fox, BBC, Times of India, etc. — do not work for us the ordinary people. They work for, and owned by, the 1%. Murdoch, Ambani, or Disney. Or, by special interests. And they are almost always dictated by the policies of the corporations that advertise in them. Media can never go against the will of their owners, or advertisers. Outside of the small world of alternative, not-for-profit media, there is no such thing as free press.
American media, Indian media, or British media — are not free.
How do big media treat us, or rather, use us? We the 99% are their market to sell their news, and make maximum profit, and political power. News is not neutral, objective, or balanced. In fact, news is not even news. It’s an item to sell on this market, just like a car, potato chips, pizza, or say, guns or grenades. Or, private prisons. You add your list of items to buy, sell, and make profit from.
Media houses and corporations have no reason to work for us, even though there are many dedicated, honest, often risk-taking journalists working for them. But these journalists do not decide what news is, or how it is printed, aired, or broadcast. It’s the owners and their fat-cat editors who decide it. They decide what is news, and what is not. They decide how to twist and manipulate news. They decide what is first-page news, or to be aired first. They decide who is an expert, and who is not. They decide which issue to prioritize, and which issue to exclude or undermine. And we follow them, often blindly, even though privately many of us talk about how dishonest media channels are, or joke about a newspaper’s self-professed honesty.
Big media make Trump, Obama, Clinton, Blair, Queen Elizabeth, the British princes, or India’s Modi. Basically, big media always give coverage to the big parties, and their big-named leaders, who are often corrupt and extremely rich, in varying degrees. Personally corrupt, or politically corrupt. Or, as in case of Trump, both.
Leaders like Bernie Sanders are always undermined by big media: we the people do not get to hear their POV. Big media make Iraq war, Kashmir war, North Korean war…or many other wars American powers have always been involved with — for ages. Big media demonize Cuba, Palestine, Vietnam, or using a most recent example, undocumented immigrants. Big media create friends and enemies, angels or villains. Media make us forget, with their propaganda, that before Saddam Hussain was demonized, the U.S. government loved him, and gave him national honors when he visited this country.
How do media do it? They do it by journalism of inclusion (i.e., what gets in), and they do it by what I call “Journalism of Exclusion.” That is, what gets out. That is, not covering, de-prioritizing, or lying or gravely distorting about news that matter to us. Like, a union strike: why do workers strike? What are the circumstances, when workers brave the harsh winter, lack of pay, lack of health care, lack of family life, and lack of a normal life? How much does the company’s CEO make, and how much do the workers make? Why would the rich CEO and his people cut benefits and wages for the workers? Think of the ongoing Charter-Spectrum strike here in New York. The workers are striking for nine months already! Where is the media coverage?
Big media let big banks and Wall Street CEO’s off the hook, and legitimize government bailouts of the extreme rich. Our pension cut is not important news for them, and police killings of the poor is trivial news. They don’t report clearly how much the cricket players, baseball or golf players make, or film stars make, and do not report their tax evasions. They do not tell us how toxic junk foods or many prescription drugs are. Most people have no idea what they eating, drinking, or using as medications.
Big media, corporate media perpetuate an impression that this is a functioning democracy, that this is the best working system in the world, and that there are no other alternatives. It’s a political game, and it’s also a game of monopoly.
Most people do not understand their politics, or their game of profit.
I hope you use your real-life experience and intelligence to observe and analyze media.
Brooklyn, New York
Cartoon from International Politics, and No Lies Radio. Used for one-time, not-for-profit purpose.
Not that fifteen years of 9/11 is anything different from fourteen years, or sixteen. It is just a number.
For those who lost their loved ones on that fateful day here in New York, their pain and sorrow will remain exactly the same. We — those who were lucky not to go through their traumas — will not understand how intense their bereavement is.
I personally know at least five or six different friends and families who have never been able to escape from their loss. They have done their best to move on. Some of them have moved on, assuming tasks that others would not have the courage or energy to perform.
But unlike them, a vast number of Americans have not been able to understand peace. They have not tried to understand the reasons behind terrorism, and they have not tried to understand the global game of war, repression and economic exploitation, promoted and perpetuated by war corporations, military complexes, their politicians, think tanks, and media. They have misplaced their anger, and the war-mongering people in power have made this world a much more dangerous and violent place to live, much more so than what it was before 9/11/2001.
What we see in ISIS, Boko Haram, Jamat Islami or other extremist-terror groups now, we could not even imagine them until we began to hear about Taliban or Al Qaeda, really after the 9/11 terror took place. Yet, no serious media or government discussion happened ever as to explain where these groups came from, who gave them funding, political and military support, and how these terror groups recruited so many young men and women — people who are ready to kill any number of innocent people, anywhere in the world?
It is extremely unlikely that Hillary Clinton, if and when elected president, will do anything different from what Obama has done over his eight years. And on the other hand, Donald Trump who is perhaps not going to be the next U.S. president (I do hope not), will unleash new reign of global warfare, causing massive, new bloodshed. A pro-peace Bernie Sanders or Jill Stein candidacy is now a dream vanished in thin air, thanks to the manipulative election game in the U.S., one that few people understand or pay attention to.
On the home front, within America, hate crimes are on the rise again. Even here in New York City, a so-called safe refuge for immigrants, just in the past couple of weeks, two Muslim priests were shot and killed, followed by a sixty-year-old Muslim woman knifed to death. Their belongings were not taken, and they were all wearing traditional garbs, making it all but certain that these were acts of hate crime.
Did New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and CNN make Trump the menace he is today?
But definitely, indirectly, by promoting and safeguarding the 1% and their looting of the economy and ordinary people’s hopes and dreams. The tax evasion. The bailout. The false hopes. The global warfare. The massive job outsourcing. NAFTA. TPP.
And by censoring the modern, democratic, progressive voices and their many years of alternative, sane, socio-economic policy demands (just think Robert Reich or Joseph Stiglitz, let alone Bernie Sanders).
The racists and fanatics and hate mongers took advantage of this huge, purposefully-created void in people’s consciousness, and rallied behind the bigot. That is why Trump is now Trump. It is not his political ingenuity or his billions only. No, it is not just Fox.
Why is it that 80 percent of young Democratic voters are voting for Bernie Sanders, but outside of the politically savvy circle, very few know his name? Well, one answer: media.
I have carefully studied mainstream media since my own Columbia University Journalism School days, and in the footsteps of Noam Chomsky (and my beloved professor Late James Carey at Columbia), studied media ethics in particular. “Journalism of Exclusion” the New York Times or CNN way works wonders for the one percent.
You go to any diner, any restaurant, or any public place where they have a TV. What’s playing there? Either Fox or CNN. Stupid stuff most of the time: like some brainless celebrity game or a gossip show. But most people don’t even realize it’s stupid: that’s what they grew up with. They don’t know any other media form is possible. T
hen, you talk to the educated liberal: what do they read or hear? Either the Times, or its clones such as Boston Globe, L.A.Times, Albany Times Union, elitist NPR, etc. Where ingrained is the idea that the status-quo political system is the best the world, and that the U.S. is the best country in the world, no questions asked.
A massive 80% of the younger generation voters are voting for a 74-year-old candidate who’s taking America by storm — with ZERO money from corporations or their super PAC’s, and he has scared the hell out of global giants such as Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Because of his campaign, at least some people are now coming to terms with dirty hidden secrets about America’s miserable socio-economic situation, grotesque inequality, corruption, violence, illiteracy, health crisis, and sky-high prison population. Facts that the two parties and their Clintons have always tried to hush up, with help from their corporate media. Bernie Sanders is bringing to us a fresh air of free information and democracy. Yet, his name is still unknown to a vast swath of the American population.
Media have promoted a hateful racist, and excluded a humanist reformer.
ISIS — we all know, now, through the horrific carnage in Paris (and Lebanon).
But what the heck is Journalism of Exclusion?
Let’s talk about it.
Only recently, John McCain praised ISIS, and took pictures with the terrorist group’s top leaders. New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, NPR, NBC, and other major media did not report it, let alone publish photos that are now easily available online.
Not too long ago, New York Times reporter Judith Miller cooked up a so-called Weapons of Mass Destruction story, which the globally-feared paper printed on its front page for weeks, where defying all journalistic standards, it used one (and only one!) globally discredited source named Ahmad Chalabi.
The report validated Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld to begin the Iraq genocide.
New York Times never bothered to mention that Chalabi was a paid CIA agent, a fact they disclosed only weeks ago, in a Chalabi obituary.
Now, let’s talk about the 2016 U.S. elections, that will decide the fate of an entire world and its people.
NYT, Washington Post, CNN, NBC and such powerful, global media never mention that Hillary Clinton is supported by (1) Monsanto, GMO corporation responsible for a massive number of farmers’ suicides in India, (2) Goldman Sachs, one of the primary culprits behind the 2008 economic crash, (3) Wal-Mart, corporation responsible for the destruction of American manufacturing jobs, and (4) private prison corporations that make huge profit by putting blacks and immigrants in American jails.
The above are all examples of Journalism of Exclusion.
I am a student of Noam Chomsky, but I don’t know if he has ever used the term “Journalism of Exclusion.” I have been using it, and asking my politically conscious and courageous friends to challenge big media head on. Only this fierce yet nonviolent challenge can save us from another generation’s time of mass deception and stolen democracy.
The current, global terrorism — both ISIS and American — finds its roots and refuge in this mass deception and the pretense of a free press and open democracy.
Do we want to put up with this violence, lies, and exclusion?
Here on Long Island where I come to teach my labor union workshop, this is a cross section of heartland America. Here, you can see the Stars and Stripes flying around every street corner, and you can see churches at every five blocks. Here, they have practically no public transportation, and people with three or four members in the family drive large SUV’s. They have almost no MacDonald’s, and no Burger Kings or KFC. This is suburban America. Here, people believe the American Dream still exists.
My class is largely a Democratic Party constituency. Out of my 1,500 union colleagues I teach every year, most of whom come by rotation, I bet 1,400 will vote Democratic.
So, we’ve been indirectly having this conversation about various candidates: Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Most of them know Hillary is the same-old wine in a newly-packaged bottle. They know she’s been a flip-flop on many critically important issues, and she has been a spokesperson for the 1%. They know she will say anything to get elected.
To these union members, Republicans are anti-union and pro-big-corporation (they are right), and they hate people like Scott Walker or his ilk of union busters. They laugh at Donald Trump’s hate speech against immigrants.
Now, thanks to our classes over the years, many of them also know about Bill Clinton’s destructive NAFTA, his overturning of Glass-Stegall Act (a measure that destroyed the age-old separation between private banks and investment banks), and they also know Hillary Clinton’s long association with Wal-Mart, and her secretive position on TPP.
They have reluctantly accepted that even though these two big parties are flip sides of the same coin, they have no choice but to find the so-called “lesser evil,” every four years.
They know how Goldman Sachs and J. P. Morgan Chase are taking advantage of a weak Obama administration, looting America, and they know how GE, Exxon and Apple are not paying taxes. Some of them who came to my classes all these years also know about IMF, World Bank, Greece, Iceland, Bangladesh, India, Union Carbide, and Monsanto. These are well-informed people with serious political commitment. They participate in phone banking during elections.
Yet, many of them do not know who Bernie Sanders is, or what he has done to try to overturn Citizens United. They don’t know that what he has done in Vermont could be a pragmatic, futuristic model for tomorrow’s America. They don’t know that his proposed socioeconomic platform is not outlandish or far left. They don’t know he is not going to take their guns away.
Yet, some of them know about Elizabeth Warren and her progressive politics, but they also believe she will not run against Hillary Clinton.
This lack of knowledge about viable, strong alternatives has happened because of what I keep calling “Journalism of Exclusion.” Not just the New York Times, NBC, PBS, NPR or CNN, even the so-called lefty media such as MSNBC or The Nation are, in all likelihood, going to take a pro-Hillary position, effectively excluding Bernie Sanders from any possible democratic discussions or debates.
**There will be no debate on mainstream media — on real bread and butter issues.** This is my fear.
If my Bernie Sanders friends think I am being negative or pessimistic, you can hate me. My absence from this scenario will not change anything. Your life, and my life, will go on.
But hopefully, you will not hate what I have to say here. In America, I have a non-Judeo-Christian name, and I am a first-generation immigrant with no money or pedigree. But I bring in decades of political organizing experience, from the two biggest democracies in the world. I have worked with thousands of political activists, and I have worked on American and Indian elections all my life.
A scientist friend whom I respect a lot tried to impress on me that the cosmic expedition “success” of India last week was a great one, and that I’m playing negativity on it. She also reminded me that I had no business to downplay the incredible scientific achievement India just had. Moreover, she assured me that scientists had no business with politics: they were only doing their job. ISRO in India, and NASA in USA.
I respectfully disagree. Scientists and science, detached from political and economic reality, are actually doing a disservice to us the 99%, and helping the 1% big time, knowingly or unknowingly. In my own life as a scientist, I have seen extremely bright and talented scientists with zero political knowledge or wisdom or interest to get involved in anything political. These are some of the best, intelligent minds. Precisely, the people in power (the 1%) want that: they want to cajole or exploit their hard work and innovative ideas to champion their own cause — making themselves even more powerful, with motives to stay in power and strengthen themselves, and unleash more political, economic or military violence across their world.
Same with USA and its so-called war on terror. Syria and ISIS now. Iraq and Afghanistan and Al-Qaeda before. Chile, Bangladesh. Vietnam even before that. Agent Orange. Monsanto. Remember? It’s a huge, humongous military mission that mighty American science and U.S. scientists have helped their 1% to develop, and grow, beyond imagination. Do these scientists not know what weapons of mass destruction they’re manufacturing, and what costs — human and economic — they’re inflicting on us the 99%? Do they not know how many hundreds of thousands of innocent people their 1% are killing, with their invented and developed science? Do they not know how many Vietnamese mothers are still giving birth to crippled babies because Agent Orange crippled them when they were children?
Do scientists and engineers and IT professionals at GE and Monsanto and Northrop Grumman and Raytheon and IBM and Boeing have any social responsibility? Do they vote? Do they care to vote? Can they vote? Are they detached from the rest of the world and its 99%, with their cozy labs and fancy instruments and crystal chemicals and fat salaries and travel allowances and famed journal articles and five-star conferences? I’ve seen a lot of them and their five-star conferences. I’ve been there.
I would not say much now. But I do want to return to this subject, and ask for your thoughts. I do not believe that the people in power — the 1% — could care less about our thoughts and our alternative priorities, away from theirs. They do not like our strong voice of dissent, and informed, educated decisions that go against their programs.
In short, their priorities are driven by political and economic profits via political and economic violence, and ours are driven by peace, justice and equality via democracy, nonviolence and collective actions. The continuous propaganda by big media — in the U.S. and India — are required weapons of the 1%, to distract us, fool us, and make us believe that they’re doing the right thing (for us), and that we should be happy and proud about “our country.” Of course, they define what the country is: we fall for their definition.
When USA dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August of 1945, perhaps the greatest, deliberate mass murder in human history, it was possible because of the Einstein–Szilárd letter that inspired Roosevelt to start developing the bomb. Did Einstein do the right thing? Well, he was afraid Hitler might make it first. So, there was some political consciousness. But what happened because of that encouragement to FDR and Truman had changed the concept of human conscience, once and for all. Bertrand Russell, and later, Einstein too worked to stop the nuclear proliferation. Did they get involved politically? You can bet they did. That was the purpose of the Russell-Einstein Manifesto: to make people be aware more politically.
War proliferation continues. Who knows what is happening inside the iron wall the 1% have built, in USA, UK, India, China or Russia, and what they’re cooking up with help from science and scientists? In China and Russia, they say there is no democracy; so the ordinary people do not know. But in USA, UK or India — three biggest democracy drum-beaters — do we know? We always know after the fact, and not before. Do we have a right know how OUR money is being spent, and do we have a right to participate in the policy- and decision-making process? If it is a democracy, then we do.
If people like us — the 99% — after informed education, analysis and careful consideration, decide that sending a spacecraft to Mars should be India’s top priority now vis-a-vis feeding milk to the malnourished or free the country’s air from carcinogenic pollution, or in case of the U.S., relentless bombing and making wars should be the topmost priority vis-a-vis rebuilding the falling-apart schools, hospitals, roads, bridges, libraries and a strong middle class, then that would be the right thing to do.
Problem is, we the 99% are force-fed with their views by their media, and we are allowed to voice our support only. Our role is only the role of cheer leaders. Dissent is repressed in China and USSR and Saudi Arabia, but excluded in USA and India. Noam Chomsky talks about self-censorship by U.S. media. Nobody knows there was a dissent, and why there was one. Scientists who have dissent, however few and far between, are ostracized and silenced. Bertrand Russell and Noam Chomsky are not household names in the U.S.
Dissent is never heard. Only the euphoria is heard, hence. Or, a massive indifference looms large.
In my opinion, hence, hoaxes and hypocrisies flourish.
Now, if I could only impress it all back on my scientist friend. Would she care to listen?
Another Five-Year Fun Comes to India. Can we think democracy differently?
Every time I talk to someone about politics – whether in India or USA – I see strange apathy. I see fear and frustration about political leaders, candidates and ministers.
You talk to the ordinary Jo Blo or Jane Doe in the U.S., or Aam Aadmi or Kuppan Suppan in India, about elections. What response do you get?
“Oh, they’re all the same. All corrupt and crooks. Except for a few and far between.” This is the general consensus.
Yet, in just a month, millions of men and women will line up, in glee and glamour, to vote at their neighborhood polling booths. In big cities and small towns, in prosperous villages and remote countryside.
In this South Asian festival, unlike USA’s maximum thirty or forty percent, an unbelievably high number of ordinary folks will come out and vote. The election will decide the fate of 1.2 billion people.
Monsanto Farmer Suicides
In party- and festival-full India, a national election is the biggest festival. It’s the biggest yajna that even Ram or Judhisthira could not have imagined. In this yajna, saints and rishis and imams and cardinals from various corners would declare their sermons. Old and new stars –film and cricket stars included – would show up in public and bless their voters with rich looks and gorgeous voices. From Kashmir to Kanyakumari, Assam to Gujarat, street microphones and TV screens would blare the vote call, amplify to glorify this five-year fun. Dinner tables and drawing rooms would spill vote storms over tea cups and beer mugs.
Never-ending promises and pledges would drop from the sky like the relentless showers in Cherapunji.
Then, even before the ink on your finger dries up, promises and pledges would dry up like magic. You and your family and children would find yourselves in exactly the same situation you were in before. Frustrated and annoyed. There is terrible inflation and sky-high prices of all essential items. Corrupt promoters and their mafia are ruling the streets, and polluting the Indian sky and rivers like crazy. Unemployment drives poor people out of their villages into the cities, to toil like slaves. Violence on women is out of control. Slow, sluggish work environment in offices and courts. Major crisis in health, education and transportation. And God forbid, unchecked, unstopped violence and terrorism.
Expert opinions would jam up your ears explaining away the reasons for administrative failures. One political party would slander the other, back and forth. Isn’t this what we’ve seen all our lives?
One Percent vs. 99 Percent
Do we have any way to get out of this dead-end alley, in this life? I keep speaking about it at whatever forum I get anywhere in the world – left, right or center.
In fact, to me, left and right do not have any more meaning. The divide is artificial and purposeful. The real struggle, as Occupy Wall Street would point out, is the conflict between the one percent (people in political, social and economic power) and the 99 percent (ordinary people like us who do not have those powers). That is how the vote debate should be framed.
Of course, in this neoliberal, globalized era, debate itself has become outdated. In this era, nobody wants to be unhappy by debating. Acceptance makes us happy. Like, here in America, if you ask somebody, “Ha-ya doin’?” The immediate response would be, “Doin’ great, man!” In my three decades of living in the U.S., I’ve never heard anybody saying, “Honestly, I’m not doing so well, and here is why.” Nobody wants to admit any problems, mention anything unhappy.
The neoliberal social model works truly great for the one percent.
Democracy or Plutocracy?
This is not democracy. This system keeps the one percent, the rich, mighty and powerful, happy. It keeps the status quo for them – to take advantage of our powerlessness, economic vulnerability and fears of losing the little we have. We keep satisfying the profit machines of the powerful, in return of small compensations. And we pretend we are happy with that small change compared to the billions they make, out of our lifelong labor.
But, we keep fighting among ourselves deciding who is left and who is right, which party is going to get how many seats in which state or city. We get sucked in with expert predictions and exit polls. We fight over religions and castes. Some of us even bet on our favorite candidates or fronts. Just like a football or cricket match where spectators are fighting over their team and players, when the players and team owners are eating the cream, only leaving the crumbs behind for us.
I don’t know about you. But I have seen it happening all my life.
One national alliance is riddled with extreme corruption, monarchy-like rule, and pathetic incompetency. The other national alliance is well-known for their feudalism, chauvinism, and communal politics. If one regional or state party is infamous for its idiosyncratic, autocratic leader with loose-cannon talks, the other party has been talking violence or of taking over neighboring countries. Many have their underground money, muscle and mafia – ones that keep us the 99 percent in perpetual fear. For them, there is elite police or protection. For you and me, there is none.
IMF, World Bank, Wall Street and Dalal Street keep putting more pressure on you, me and the 99 percent through their insider connections and policy changes. And we don’t even know it.
Yet, even in this dark, dismal, depressing environment, strong pro-99-percent movements are taking India by storm. We’ve seen Jay Prakash Narayan before. We’re now seeing Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal, and some others who’re challenging the status quo from the grassroots level. In recent years, India has given rise to Medha Patkar, Arundhati Roy, Vandana Shiva and many other peoples’ leaders and organizations who have made remarkable progress to empower the ordinary. In Delhi and West Bengal, watershed grassroots movements to protest against rapes and barbarism on women happened. Minorities from Dalit and tribal communities have forged solidarity.
Future India: Collaborative Leadership
Indians, especially today’s young men and women, do not want corruption or inept dynastic “leaders” on one hand, or violent, misogynistic, communal politicians on the other. Young India is smart and informed. The new generation knows the difference between intelligence and idiosyncrasy, knowledge and naivete. Young people in India believe in gender, religion and caste equality, modernity, and equal distribution of prosperity.
Unless we elect candidates who would show their profound understanding about this new, aspiring India, and collaboratively lead to fulfill these aspirations, India through another five-year vote-festivity would spiral back into the same cycle of mediocrity, inequality, feudalism and violence.
It is time we must come out of our archaic, leftist-rightist boxes, find common values and goals, and forge a broad-based coalition of the 99 percent – a rainbow coalition of the ordinary and honest working men, women and families.
Only if we strengthen our commonalities and build bridges, India can usher in a new, modern era of progress and prosperity for all, and be a real, recognizable power in this global economy.
I challenge you on it.
With Absolutely Honesty, Sharing My Pains and Hopes With You,
Isn’t this how U.S., U.K. and South African apartheid powers portrayed Mandela for decades? Come on…tell us the truth!
I could title it some other ways: peacification, forgetization, or harmony-washing … Or, maybe, Gandhi’iting … of Mandela.
These are some of my own words from my own Orwellian dictionary. You decide which one best suits your needs. Let me know.
Nelson Mandela passed away on December 5, 2013. One of the greatest, global icons of resistance against inequality and oppression left for his eternal place in heaven. Next time you see a new, bright star lit up above the clear, autumn sky, that’s him.
Next time you see the star way up above, bow your head — in respect.
Eulogies are pouring in. From the mighty New York Times, CNN, Bloomberg News or BBC all the way to Jerusalem Post, Al Jazeera or Indian newspapers and TV are all talking about the great anti-apartheid leader’s enormous contribution and sacrifice to bring South Africa to freedom. No, they’re not forgetting to mention the Robben Island, where a racist, violent, tyrannical, murderous, forcibly-occupying regime prisoned Mandela for twenty-seven years.
Well, maybe, they’re not describing it exactly the way I am. Like, the words racist and violent and tyrannical and murderous and forcibly-occupying and such are not being used in global, big media’s obituaries. Like, even if they’re using such words, they’re using it sporadically…maybe, once here, and once way back there. More often than not, they’re surgically removing those qualifiers.
When I was a journalism student at Columbia University, some of my esteemed professors said using such words in reporting would be editorializing. They said it would be activist journalism.
I asked them wouldn’t it be another variety of editorializing and activist journalism — which I now call Journalism of Exclusion — if a violent regime is not called violent, or if a brutal group of rulers is not called brutal — especially if I do it showing evidence of violence and brutality?
My esteemed journalism professors at Columbia University did not like my questions. Ah, well…
I moved on.
Global, big media, their global, big politicians, and their search engines and corporations are now asking us to move on. They ask us to forgive and forget the dark past Mandela and South Africa had to deal with, and move on.
They say Mandela did it himself: forgive and forget and move on. So, why can’t we?
Sure. We want to move on. But can we move on — unconditionally — without knowing the truth: the historical truth?
A Time-ly Cover [Up].
New York Times wrote in its first major story after Mandela’s death: “Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s Icon of Peaceful Resistance, Dies.” Quickly, as it always happens, numerous newspapers — American and global, big and small — copied the title, and printed stories. The mighty Associated Press did it too. Or, was it the AP that did it first, followed by the Times? Who knows? But you get my point.
I laughed. Had it not been her, I would laugh even harder. “Moral Center?” Is it morality Gandhi brand? Or, is it the center that Lydia emphasizing on? On both counts, she is wrong.
Sorry, Lydia, buddy!
New York Times and CNN and all these global clone media — big and small — must know what Mandela really stood for. And how the U.S., British and European government, along with the murderous, apartheid governments in South Africa, treated Mandela and his African National Congress until recently.
Global, big media, under the leadership of New York Times, CNN and BBC, are distorting history. They’re gentrifying history, just the same way New York City administrations have gentrified Harlem or other historic sites that are symbols of its glorious equality and justice movements. We need to understand how they’re doing it, and why.
Forgiveness? Move on? Peaceful resistance?
Of course, peaceful must be the word we need to keep in mind. Nobody is preaching violence here. But, all of it — without knowing the history of the South African struggle? Or, for that matter, the Gandhi’fication of Indian history without knowing a century’s anti-British, anti-occupation struggle even before Gandhi showed up on the scene?
Very similar. Very similar. Just the people are places and times are different.
1. Mandela blasted the Iraq War and American imperialism. Mandela called Bush “a president who has no foresight, who cannot think properly,” and accused him of “wanting to plunge the world into a holocaust” by going to war in Iraq. “All that (Mr. Bush) wants is Iraqi oil,” he said.
2. Mandela called freedom from poverty a “fundamental human right.” Mandela considered poverty one of the greatest evils in the world, and spoke out against inequality everywhere. “Massive poverty and obscene inequality are such terrible scourges of our times — times in which the world boasts breathtaking advances in science, technology, industry and wealth accumulation — that they have to rank alongside slavery and apartheid as social evils,” he said. He considered ending poverty a basic human duty: “Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice.
3. Mandela criticized the “War on Terror” and the labeling of individuals as terrorists, even Osama Bin Laden, without due process. On the U.S. terrorist watch list until 2008 himself, Mandela was an outspoken critic of President George W. Bush’s war on terror. He warned against rushing to label terrorists without due process. While calling for Osama bin Laden to be brought to justice, Mandela said, “The labeling of Osama bin Laden as the terrorist responsible for those acts before he had been tried and convicted could also be seen as undermining some of the basic tenets of the rule of law.”
4. Mandela called out racism in America. On a trip to New York City in 1990, Mandela made a point of visiting Harlem and praising African Americans’ struggles against “the injustices of racist discrimination and economic equality.”
5. Mandela embraced some of America’s biggest political enemies. Mandela incited shock and anger in many American communities for refusing to denounce Cuban dictator Fidel Castro or Libyan Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, who had lent their support to Mandela against South African apartheid. “One of the mistakes the Western world makes is to think that their enemies should be our enemies,” he explained to an American TV audience. “We have our own struggle.” He added that those leaders “are placing resources at our disposal to win the struggle.” He also called the controversial Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat “a comrade in arms.”
6. Mandela was a die-hard supporter of labor unions. Mandela visited the Detroit auto workers union when touring the U.S., immediately claiming kinship with them. “Sisters and brothers, friends and comrades, the man who is speaking is not a stranger here,” he said. “The man who is speaking is a member of the UAW. I am your flesh and blood.”
Basically, what they are telling us is, please forgive us — for all the colossal crimes we have committed against you…until we do it again. And we shall do it again.
Just reporting, as truthfully as possible,
Brooklyn, New York
Now, that’s a fitting tribute. Yes, Mandela and MLK. My heroes.
NOTE: IT’S NOT THE INDIVIDUAL I’M TALKING ABOUT. IT’S THE POLICY HE AND HIS PARTY ARE FOLLOWING. TOGETHER, THEY HAVE BEEN DISASTROUS FOR TODAY’S INDIA.
You perhaps know that Manmohan Singh is the head of the country of India — its prime minister.
Do you know who Mir Jafar was? And why I called Mr. Singh Mir Jafar? Believe me, a lot of Indians — including some of my best friends — would be terribly upset when they see this article. The most common reaction would be: “Please, Manmohan Singh and Mir Jafar? We are familiar with your hyperbole, but this is a new low for you.” Another common response would be: “We all know Singh is a puppet of Sonia Gandhi, and we also know he failed to lift India out of its horrific corruption, but he is a decent, honest man.”
But truly, I’m not the first person making such a comparison. Recently, when West Bengal’s firebrand chief minister Mamata Banerjee opposed the election of India’s longtime finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, an IMF-chosen leader, as the next president of the country, Singh and Mukherjee’s ruling Congress Party (especially its Bengal leader Adhir Chowdhury) called Mamata a Mir Jafar (reference: Ananda Bazar Patrika, Calcutta’s major daily, March 15, 2014) for her lone opposition from the ruling coalition’s side (she left the coalition since then). Mir Jafar, for historical reasons, has become synonymous with someone people consider a national traitor.
So, I’m only following the footsteps of those Congress Party leaders.
It’s a very sensitive subject: calling the prime minister of India a traitor is no trivial matter. I must come up with evidence to prove my point. Plus, like I said before, it’s more about the policy than the person. Let’s be clear on it.
I have decided to take on this subject after a lot of thinking. I have decided that someone must tell the true story of India — a country that I identify with very closely — that connects India’s dark, colonial past with the presently-unfolding new colonialism. This is a very scary neoliberal, economic takeover and occupation of modern India — neocolonization that would completely devastate and disintegrate the country and its one billion poor people, and that too, in a very short time. I have written about it before. If you’re interested to read about it, please click on this link.
But in order to understand the story, I seek your permission to give you a quick history lesson.
In 1757, East India Company — a British merchants’ group — came to then-prosperous, undivided India with a sole, sinister motive: to occupy and colonize the country. Over the previous few decades, they used India’s fractious sociopolitical system with no central rule and Hindu kings and Muslim nawabs fighting with each other, and by using various methods — bribes here and battles there, took over huge areas of land paying minimum taxes to the local rulers, and started shipping raw materials from India to Britain to run the engine of a new Industrial Revolution.
But then they decided that they would completely displace the Indian sociopolitical system with a colonial rule, and thus they created desperate situations where the otherwise lazy nawab of perhaps the most prosperous place of all — Bengal — decided to resist the British onslaught in a war now known as the Battle of Plassey. Muslim Nawab Siraj-Ud-Daulah had a big, formidable army with cannons and Hindu generals such as Mohan Lal known for their bravery, and it was apparent that the British army would be no match for the unified Hindu-Muslim regiment.
But the British had other plans.
The British commander in chief Lord Robert Clive had found a few senior, corrupt confidantes of the nawab and promised them tons of money and gold and also tax-free, fertile Bengal land. Jagat Seth, Umi Chand and such traitors with their leader Mir Jafar betrayed the nawab, divulged the top secret battle plans to Clive, moved their own regiments away from the battlefield at a very crucial moment, and the British army in the Battle of Plassey vanquished Nawab Siraj Daulah. The gallant generals under the nawab perished in the war, Clive beheaded the nawab, and after conquering Bengal, East India Company slowly declared the land of India to be a colony of the British monarchy.
Mir Jafar was made the ceremonial nawab of Bengal — only to be replaced by another puppet in a few years.
For the next two hundred years, British Raj plundered Bengal and India, brutalized and exploited their Indian subjects, forced them to plant indigo in fertile rice fields and manufacture other products used in Europe for their newly developing industries, looted coal, textile, and enormous amounts of gold and diamond. They created famines — unheard of in Bengal before they took over — and millions of farmers with their families and children died of starvation. All the rebellions across India against the British Raj were ruthlessly crushed for two centuries, and the rebels and revolutionaries were shot to death, hanged or imprisoned for life.
In 1947, the British finally gave up on the colonial rule of India, mainly because of critical economic and political turmoil in their own country in the aftermath of World War II, and left after partitioning the country in three pieces, creating incredible misery and bloodshed.
The British also left, putting their handpicked feudal Indian rulers — ruling class that would later continue the British colonial system in a so-called free country.
That is modern Indian history as we all know it — until the next episode.
In late December of 1984, two Sikh bodyguards of India’s mighty prime minister Indira Gandhi shot her to death, allegedly as a revenge for the leader’s desecration of a major Sikh temple in Punjab. Indira Gandhi, just like her father Jawaharlal Nehru the first prime minister of India, pampered and perpetuated a dynasty rule, and her elder son Rajiv Gandhi who had no experience or interest in politics suddenly became India’s “leader.”
He chose Dr. Manmohan Singh as his director for India’s Reserve Bank (RBI); later, Singh became the national finance minister. With help from IMF, World Bank and Western corporate world, Singh massively deregulated and privatized India’s erstwhile semi-socialistic market. Foreign corporations entered the newly-opened floodgate, and very soon, India saw a huge spike in prices of essential commodities that was always kept under control for the poor, drastic devaluation of its currency, and even more outrageous income inequality that the country had ever seen. At the same time, middle class Indians with this new economy saw prosperity that they hadn’t seen before, and however temporary the luxury was and however far their personal debts grew, were greatly reassured by this so-called prosperity. Indian Chamber of Commerce, Wall Street and corporate media showered praise on this new “reform.”
Rajiv Gandhi was also assassinated a few years later by Tamil extremists, and after a couple of short stints of prime ministership by non-Gandhi-dynasty politicians, Manmohan Singh became the prime minister — this time, with the return and patronization of Rajiv’s widow Sonia Gandhi whom the Indian and Western media soon made the de facto queen mother of India’s politics. Manmohan Singh has since been India’s prime minister for almost ten years, blessed by Sonia Gandhi and sponsored by India’s corporate media. In these ten years, India’s politics and economy has created the worst-possible corruption, largest rich-poor divide, steepest inflation with out-of-control price rise of oil and essential commodities, horrific human rights violations, and most drastic devaluation of the Indian Rupee.
I have emphasized a number of times how with help from India’s finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, who was the country’s official IMF director during his tenure, Manmohan Singh promulgated IMF-dictated Structural Adjustment Program, and privatization and corporatization of the Indian economy have risen up to a new level.
Now, just a few weeks ago, since Pranab Mukherjee the IMF-chosen finance minister became the president of India, Manmohan Singh with blessing from Sonia Gandhi has taken it to a new level. He announced that India’s economy is not growing at the rate IMF and World Bank would like to see, and therefore he said he would open up India’s economy to foreign markets even more widely. One of the primary policy changes Singh announced was in the area of FDI or Foreign Direct Investment: he invited retail chains such as Wal-Mart to open up their shops in India, and he also made sure global corporations such as the infamous oil companies, or Rupert Murdoch and his Fox Network, would get major access to the Indian market. To expedite these processes, Singh government began distributing enormous amounts of India’s land — much of it fertile, agricultural land that Indian farmers have depended for their living for centuries — so that the foreign corporations could start constructions there immediately.
Following a massive policy change proposal in the U.S., the Singh government also has proposed privatization and investment into the private equity market India’s vast life insurance sector — a public sector — putting in severe peril the only life’s savings ordinary people managed to have.
Manmohan Singh, Pranab Mukherjee and Sonia Gandhi call this process necessary for jump starting India’s economic growth; Indian and Western media have again showered high praise for Singh’s “bold and courageous” stand. Media compared Singh a “roaring lion.”
People and politicians who challenged this completely outrageous economic overhaul that in their opinion would destroy India’s national economy (of whatever was left after the first decade’s “reform”) were quickly blasted by the Congress Party, Indian Chamber of Commerce, Wall Street, and Indian and Western corporate media. Mamata Banerjee has become the whipping horse for the press: there is little discussion on WHY her quitting the privileged position in the national government is a principled, pro-people stand. On the other hand, the largest opposition party in India — BJP — has always been lamblasted by India’s media on the pretext that they are far right and always against anything liberal; BJP’s social and religious dogma mimicking the Republican Party here in the U.S. did not help them either to be at the forefront of any economic policy discussion. Further, Congress Party has characteristically bribed and bought off some other opposition parties to find support for this newest round of “reform.”
This new round of reform is IMF and World Bank dictated, and their neoliberal reform policies have devastated other countries in recent months. Ireland, Italy, Greece, Spain and Portugal have been the latest victims. Argentina went through their horror a decade ago. Unemployment, inflation and massive layoff of public sector workers have gone out of control. Just like the Indian president, IMF has also chosen their men to be presidents of Italy and Spain, and Greece is going through a horrendous turmoil because they refused to let IMF select their own destiny.
Labor unions and teacher unions and student unions have took the hardest hit — because of their resistance and opposition to this new, horrendous, anti-people “reform.”
For India, this so-called reform at the behest of Manmohan Singh would be even more catastrophic and millions of poor people will starve and die. I have written about it before. I have also written about Malaysia’s former prime minister Mohathir Bin Mohamad who resisted the IMF onslaught a few years ago before he became a slaughter lamb himself for his outspoken criticism of this new global economic terror.
India is country where I still have a lot of belongingness. I feel very strongly for India even after being in the U.S. for twenty five years. I can see how Wal-Mart, GE, Monsanto (which in ten years has forced 200,000 Indian farmers to commit suicide), Fox, Coke, KFC, MTV and McDonald’s — along with their Indian corporate counterparts and cheerleading media — are going to change the face of the country, once and for all.
I can see how the farming lands and forests and villages and their people who have survived and prospered since the ages of Ramayana and Mahabharata will soon be destroyed, once and for all.
British aggressors forced Indian farmers to plant indigo in their fertile rice fields. Now, the new FDI and IMF aggressors will force Indian farmers to simply go extinct.
This is neocolonization happening right in front of our eyes. And it is going to enslave one billion poor Indians for many years to come, just the same way the British once colonized India with help from the country’s Mir Jafars. Mir Jafars sold India off to foreign traders.
It’s a very scary, bone-chilling deja vu unfolding right now.
Manmohan Singh once said after the horrific Union Carbide disaster: “Bhopals will happen, but India must move on.”
Are we okay with that kind of moving on?
MAMATA BANERJEE IS NO MIR JAFAR. I KNOW IT REGARDLESS OF MY SUPPORT OR OPPOSITION FOR HER.