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Studies in Hypocrisy From the F-Word to the New York Times
T he hypocrisy that runs deep in this culture is amusingly illustrated by the fact that while the F-word has become standard operating language, especially under conditions of emotion or stress, and for the political right as well as others, for the right-wing base and many Republican cadres and allies it is the ultimate in immoral and “indecent” language, and its use in the media is fought with great energy. On the one hand we have Vice-President Dick Cheney using the word on the floor of the Senate telling Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, “Fuck yourself”; and George Bush himself saying to Wall Street Journal journalist Al Hunt “You no-good fucking son of a bitch. I will never fucking forget what you wrote!” Karl Rove told Ron Suskind his thoughts about one political enemy: “We will fuck him. Do you hear me? We will fuck him. Like no one else has ever fucked him.” Right-wing judge Laurence Silberman, exulting over an attack on Senator Paul Simon who had harshly questioned the credentials of Clarence Thomas for Supreme Court justice, said: “You nailed him! You fucked him!”
It is also the word of choice among our boys fighting for freedom in Iraq: “We’re here to give you your fuckin’ freedom, so back off,” as one GI put it to Iraqi protesters. And on-site reports of GI sweeps and violent entry into Iraqi homes regularly report “fuck” as the word of choice by the invaders as they beat and push the terrified householders around.
Why the deep concern of the righteous? An important reason is that the word is about SEX, which is bad and best treated by abstinence and (in later years) darkness. The F-word’s use might cause children to ask for an explanation, which would force the righteous into evasions and talks about stork-delivery, when they don’t want to lie.
FCC boss Michael Powell has responded to the push of the righteous, with the FCC ruling in March 2004 “that the use of the ‘F-word’ during last year’s broadcast of the Golden Globes violates the federal statute…the gratuitous use of such vulgar language on broadcast television will not be tolerated.”
This hypocrisy works out well for the right wing as they dominate both the media and the work of an agency like the FCC. Thus the contradiction and hypocrisy are not given much attention and rules against indecency can be used as a selective club to keep the media in line.
Sex in the Media
closely related profusion of hypocrisy flows from the fact that
sex sells, so that the commercial media, under competitive pressure,
use it aggressively in both ads and programming. Women are displayed
in ever more provocative clothing (or lack of it), poses, and actions.
The competitive ads for cures for erectile dysfunction and frigidity
show couples looking ever more satisfied from just-completed sexual
encounters and sex-saturated programs like “Married by America”
and “Desperate Housewives” have proliferated, heavily
represented on the Fox network. Frank Rich notes that “Fox
remains the go-to network for Paris Hilton (‘The Simple Life’)
and wife-swapping (‘Trading Spouses: Meet Your New Mommy’),”
and that “The Murdoch cultural stable includes recent books
like Jenna Jameson’s
to Make Love Like a Porn Star
and the Vivid Girls’
to Have a XXX Sex Life
, which have been synergistically, even
joyously, promoted on Fox News by willing hosts like Rita Crosby
and, needless to say, Mr. O’Reilly.”
Rich also notes, “None of this has prompted an uprising from the red-state Fox News loyalists supposedly so preoccupied with ‘moral values’.” Of course, none of these programs offer a positive view of pro-choice and gay-lesbian rights, but still the willingness to tolerate adultery, open and public sex, and de facto pornography is impressive. Of course these programs are offered by a network that supports aggression, torture, official lies on a grand scale (historically “off-the-charts,” as Mark Crispin Miller points out), a destruction of the welfare state, racism, and subversion of the U.S. constitution, with implied moral and political values that apparently appeal to the loyalists. The programs watched by children should help integrate them into a culture of aggression, domination, hierarchy, and militarism.
The Pro-Death Constituency
T here is a substantial overlap between the folks who oppose abortion and those who support capital punishment and perpetual war. Thus the self-designation of these people as “pro-life” is a serious misrepresentation—they favor preserving the life of fetuses, but are in favor of a variety of policies that injure or terminate life once it emerges from the womb. They could, with rather more justice, be called the “pro-death” constituency as their preference is for protecting undeveloped life still devoid of personality, while they are less concerned with protecting the lives of humans who are fully sensate and members of the human community. In fact, many of them are positively eager to see mass death imposed on people who stand in the way of their country’s projection of power.
Many of them are extremely fond of Sharon’s Israel, recently in an intensified phase of ethnic cleansing, busy rendering life miserable and killing large numbers of another set of non-Caucasians. Political commentator Bill Berkowitz also calls attention to a current Christian fundamentalist compassion deficit: “Organizations which are amazingly quick to organize to fight against same-sex marriage, a woman’s right to choose, and embryonic stem cell research are missing in action when it comes to responding to the disaster in southern Asia. None of their websites are actively soliciting aid for the victims of the earthquake/tsunami” (www.workingforchange.com).
Thirty years ago I coauthored an article on “Moral Consistency and the Abortion Issue” (with Robert Edelstein and Mary Herman, Commonweal , March 22, 1974) in which we carried out statistical significance tests on the relation between voting on an extremely restrictive anti-abortion bill in the Pennsylvania legislature and voting on a series of bills that would have (1) reinstituted capital punishment, (2) expressed opposition to the Vietnam War, (3) continued payments to welfare recipients, and (4) eased up on parole requirements for prisoners. The first two votes provide measures of legislators’ reactions to the direct termination of post-fetal life. The other two are crude indicators of concern with human welfare. Our statistical analysis of the votes of Pennsylvania legislators showed a strongly significant correlation between votes for the anti-abortion bill and votes for reinstituting capital punishment and support for the Vietnam War (and against easing parole requirements; there was no significant relationship between anti-abortion and pro-welfare votes).
This article aroused strong emotions among some readers of Commonweal , but the statistical findings were never challenged and they point to a linkage that is fairly obvious. It follows that there is no way the anti-abortion crusaders can justifiably call themselves “pro-life.” When they and the mainstream media use such terminology it should be assailed and corrected.
The New York Times and the Mrs. Jellyby Syndrome
T he New York Times has long suffered from the Mrs. Jellyby Syndrome, a disorder described by example in Charles Dickens’s Bleak House , where Mrs. Jellyby spends all of her time organizing efforts on behalf of the distant natives of Booriaboola-gha, while paying no attention to the poor state of her own family. Among many other illustrations, the Times displayed this ailment at the time of the big Pittston strike in 1989, when the paper had no interest in this major home-grown struggle but paid devoted attention to the simultaneous strike of miners in the Soviet Union. Of course, the political basis of this differential attention was obvious: the Times is anti-union, but has always been pleased to support union activism in distant places where it is causing problems for target/enemy states. In the same time frame as the Times was giving indignant support to the mistreatment of Solidarity in communist Poland, it was completely silent on the even more brutal crackdown on unions in Turkey, a U.S. client state.
Recently, the Times has devoted massive attention to protests in the Ukraine and the deficiencies of the voting process in that far-off land, including the contradictory findings of exit polls and official tabulations. In fact, from November 1 through December 31, 2004, the paper had 118 articles on the Ukraine and its election, with 17 running on the first page. Meanwhile, protests in their own country and election abuses here were of far less interest and concern to the editors. There was a protest of an estimated 16,000 people at Fort Benning, Georgia, on November 19-21, against the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, long (and still widely) known as the School of the Americas, and also widely known in non-establishment sources and Latin America as the “School for the Assassins” given the great importance of the school’s trainees in the rise of the National Security State, death squads, torture, and military dictatorships in Latin America. (Two-thirds of the people named as high level killers by the UN-sponsored El Salvador Truth Commission had been trained in the School of the Americas, and School trainees were leaders in the overthrow of democratic governments and instituting reigns of terror throughout Latin America.) The New York Times did not even mention this protest.
There have also been innumerable protests and studies claiming that the recent U.S. presidential election was stolen. In Ohio, for example, there have been rallies at the state house, hearings, numerous lawsuits filed, and a great many affidavits and testimonials to electoral abuses that in the aggregate could easily have determined the election outcome. Ohio election officials are resisting subpoenas and there is even evidence of corruption in ongoing recounts ( Democracy Week, “Ohio Recount Steeped in Fraud” www. truthout.org). Congressperson John Conyers held hearings on the abuses and appealed to members of the Senate to help postpone the Electoral College vote till matters are cleared up.
One participant in the protests, Gary Polvinale, writes, “Ohio is screaming the truth at the top of its lungs, literally, and no one hears us because of all the noise of the media silence.” He has a point. The Times has never mentioned that “State officials have outsourced and privatized America’s voting system” and that with 99.4 percent of votes under machine control, “It’s an open invitation to vote fraud with minimal chance of discovery” (Lynn Landes). The Times has not mentioned the Conyers hearings in any news article and in its 36 articles that refer to the question of possible electoral fraud in Ohio published between October 1 and December 31, none pull together the wide array of evidence and no editorial or opinion piece calls for a full recount in Ohio and elsewhere and a postponement of the Electoral College vote pending such inquiries, let alone a new election. Their one extensive article on the abuses, devoted strictly to deflating the claims, fails even to mention electronic manipulation and Republican control of the machines and software (Tom Zeller, “Vote Fraud Theories, Spread by Blogs, Are Quickly Grounded,” NYT, Nov. 12, 2004).
As in the case of the 2000 election theft, the Times is not about to challenge an election result that pleases the business community and where a challenge would cause right-wing frenzy. The Times has pointed out that in the Ukraine the Supreme Court declared the voting abuses so severe as to nullify the election, but the paper doesn’t point out the irony that in this country the Supreme Court has only thrown its weight into confirming electoral abuses to permit their candidate to win (in 2000). Abuses in an election in the Ukraine are one thing—the establishment as a whole is happy to condemn that election and demand a rerun—but for this country, no thanks.
Edward S. Herman is an economist and author of many articles and books.
Z Magazine Archive
CUBAN 5 - From May 30 to June 5, supporters of the Cuban 5 will gather in Washington DC to raise awareness about the case and to demand a humanitarian solution that will allow the return of these men to their homeland.
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BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike- A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides, music, exhibitors, and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; mailbikesnotbombs.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduate Center, Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
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ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16 in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops.
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CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5-day Seminar at the University of Havana, plus visits to a co-op and educational and medical institutions.
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NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
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MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
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GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process in the U.S.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles.
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IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from across the continent to learn skills and build one big union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13, the 11th Annual Peacestock will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers, and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
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LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations, and panel discussions.
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