Retelling Our Own Story; Misinformation; What If?

August 13, 2010

We like to rewrite our own history and spin it fresh with our own agendas; not just in this country, in most others as well, but the focus here is on my own country since I observe it everyday. I’m far from the first to point out the prevalence with which the US has done this, and a great way to see it handled bluntly and sadly is by reading Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States,” which vividly depicts how things like imperialism, colonialism, genocide, slavery, and apartheid can become seen as “Manifest Destiny,” and how even in the midst of some of our nation’s most immoral and unethical actions we can still see ourselves as being the “city on the hill.”

The other night I was flipping the channels and caught a portion of the “Hannity” show. I should have kept clicking past it, I always know I’ll be angered at even a slight pause on the Fox “news” channel, but occasionally I stumble and get sucked in. Fox News viewing does no one a bit of good, but I suppose it’s important to at least know what misinformation they are spreading. Commenting on anything seen there from an outside  rational viewpoint does little good, though—the audience for the drivel filling that station already have mentally assented to buy whatever lies they see when they become a regular and committed viewer. Commenting about it here can easily slip into vitriol, with me ranting about what I’ve seen. Yet the piece I saw tied in with other things I am working with here, so I’ll mention it as a puzzle piece of this article and I’ll try to keep my own vitriol to a minimum.

“Ronald Reagan was never bigger than his country,” said one of the Stepford-Wife looking blonde neo-con “analysts” that Fox loves to trot out to parrot its Murdoch gathered misinformation to which Hannity nodded heartily in agreement. Hannity and his friends proceeded to bash Obama for his health care plan, his tax plan, and every other activity he has attempted since taking office all as proofs that he “was acting bigger than his country,” that he was running his own thing and ignoring the good folks at home who in return would punish him at the polls. Of course to contrast Obama these “news”-casters had to invoke Reagan. Reagan (read my piece here from two  years ago trying to puzzle through this whole problem in detail) is approaching Saint-status for the Republican Party, an occurrence that even a basic student of history anywhere should question. Reagan never went and acted “bigger [above?] than his country?” Really? I had just been reading Robert Lacey’s “Inside the Kingdom” which documents the history of Saudi Arabia” when I heard the Hannity segment. Lacey’s book is a great read which details the bulk of Saudi’s entire modern history in a very readable fashion. Lacey has lived in Saudi for years on separate occasions to document this book in a way that is located from within its borders but from an “outsider’s” perspective. Lacey doesn’t seem to have any particular agenda to push, other than that of a historian who probably wants to sell a few books and do good academic work. In the book (on page 79-77 if you wish to check), Lacey writes that, “when Congress explicitly blocked such ventures as U.S. funding for the anti-Marxist Nicaraguan contras,” Reagan went to work himself: “Following a personal request by Ronald Reagan to Fahd [Saudi Arabia’s ruler at the time] over breakfast at the White House in 1985, Bandar [Fahd’s nephew] set up the channels to get funds wired to the contras to the tune of $1 million and later $2 million a month, using bank account numbers supplied to him by Reagan’s national security adviser…when the Iran-contra scandal broke, the Walsh Report revealed that Saudi Arabia had secretly channeled a total of $32 million to the contras on Reagan’s behalf.” This money was dispensed to Angola, Ethiopia, Sudan, Chad and of course, Afghanistan. Reagan is quoted as saying about these paramilitary groups, “You are not alone, Freedom Fighters.” The group in Afghanistan, funded and trained with US dollars included a young Saudi leading the forces there – Osama bin Laden.

There are many things Reagan can be criticized heavily for, but even if it were just the Iran-Contra scandal, it should be enough to keep him from acquiring sainthood for the GOP—a party who can’t let go of the sexual indiscretions of Bill Clinton but seems to think that funding violent groups secretly with US dollars isn’t an incident of a President “acting bigger than his country.”

The thing that hurts me the most is the way facts are white washed and then ignored. I blame not only the outright fabrications of FOX news but also the sensationalism of CNN and the partisanship of MSNBC. I blame the rise of the cable 24 hour news networks in large part for the growing political ignorance of the average voter. People simply are not educated on issues anymore—people read nothing credible before making a political decision. People really can’t even handle facts—the closest we have to pure and “un-spun” news in the US is NPR and PBS and the average conservative thinks of those avenues as being liberally biased. It’s gotten to where people want a filter which interprets the news and hands them a preformed opinion so much so that when they are faced with an actual fact they can’t recognize it. If historical scholars can look objectively at criteria and rank Presidents from best to worst (a thing that is admittedly subjective in some ways) with results that place Obama at 15th best President in US history and George W Bush near the bottom at 39 yet the general public still seems deadset on making Obama a one-term president, and voting in Bush twice (and there’s even a move to “reshape and reclaim” W’s memory by some young conservatives)–it leaves little hope for an increase in popular political intelligence: facts and scholars can point one way all they want and still have little sway on popular opinion.

I was watching a music special about Bruce Springsteen, a favorite musician of mine, and in an interview he was looking back on the whole “Born in the USA” brouhaha. If you remember, the lyrics to that song criticized problems Bruce saw in modern America but because of it’s upbeat and energetic chorus, right-wingers initially co-opted it, causing Bruce at one point to fight off Reagan campaign commercials from using it. Bruce said something along the lines of “this is my country too, my flag too,” in regards to his thought-process while writing the song. He saw the “voice” of mainstream America praising America, but the things they were praising as being “American” had little or nothing to do with the America Bruce felt like praising and a lot to do with what Bruce felt like protesting.

Well, this is my country too; my flag too as well. Yet I’m saddened by the chances we have in making true progress. I don’t praise all that Obama has done; I don’t think he’s flawless. I do think he has consistently tried to do what is best for America and has often conceded to the brick walls in his way that have been put up by the other side. For every progressive thing he does he also has to water down a good idea to make it semi-palatable to the other folks and they still try and block it out of sheer spite. I worry about the possibility of getting and keeping real candidates with the power to make change in the areas where it is needed. I worry of the potential nightmares that could take Obama’s place and reverse every decent attempt he has thus far made if the public has it’s November way.

I can’t help but drift to a political “what if?” in closing. Looking back on the chain of events that have manifested in American politics ever since Reagan, I wonder: What if Ted Kennedy had beaten Jimmy Carter and been the candidate to face Ronald Reagan? What if Kennedy had won and been president for 8 years? Now I like Carter, I like his post-presidency work and character. I also am well aware of Ted’s troublesome past. But in sheer politics, what if? Kennedy was a staunch supporter of health care reform. Were he in during the eighties, would he have successfully pushed through a good universal health care package that would have gotten us on par with most other industrialized countries, thereby ensuring the US a better WHO ranking and attainable medicine and treatment? Ted would almost certainly not have funded the contras; maybe the Taliban wouldn’t have even been trained and armed then cast aside and angered at us, thereby preventing 9/11. Possibly. There likely wouldn’t have been a George H.W. presidency which almost certainly would have kept W out of politics. Trickle-down economic theories would probably not have emerged at that time and the market crash might never have happened. AIDS research would have occurred earlier in all likelihood. A lot to consider, but a lot that can never be known for certain. Who knows what type of candidates would have emerged as backlash when the pendulum swung in the opposite direction, though.

I’m sure I’ve offended some folks who’ve stumbled onto my blog and I honestly swear that my goal was not to simply anger those with other political opinions. Most of all, I mourn the loss of vigorous political education and intelligible discussions. I mourn the predominance of faux-news from every direction distorting what we all need to learn. Peace.


3 Responses to “Retelling Our Own Story; Misinformation; What If?”

  1. Jonelle said

    Another good article. The 24 hour news cycle has *dumb down* the news media. I’m a MSNBC fan but aware of the partisanship and research before drawing conclusions. Had the country been open to President Carter’s advice, we might be well down the road to lessening our dependence on foreign oil as well as promoting peace in the Middle East. BTW. why such a flattering pic of Hannity……you’re too kind.

  2. Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now. Keep it up!
    And according to this article, I totally agree with your opinion, but only this time! 🙂

  3. […] on the issues in regards to making political decisions here on RATDOTL quite often, most recently here. In continuation with that, and thinking about that astronomical waste of 4.2 billion dollars, […]

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