Wednesday, April 15, 2009


The selling of our democracy

by Larry Geller

We have made it impossible for any citizen of the United States to become a member of the Senate unless he himself is many times a millionaire, or unless he sells out in advance to those who are billionaires and are willing to put up the money in order to secure the legislation which they want.

If the precedent thus established is carried to its logical end, the country will soon discover that the Senate is not a club of millionaires, but a club of multimillionaires, or what is still worse, a club of the tools and slaves of multimillionaires. [The Progressive, Expenditure of Huge Sums for Seats in Congress Cannot Be Justified, January 1927]

Isn’t this exactly what is happening today in Washington, as our government takes care of the bankers first, and may or may not ever get around to bailing out the little guy (I nearly said Joe Plumber—poor Joe, the Republicans have totally forgotten him now that he needs them…).

Yes, money in politics is an important issue, and a struggle at this time in Hawaii as our state legislators try to figure out a way to get more corporate lucre and advocates lurk to head them off at the pass.

In case you didn’t notice, the date of the above article is 1927.

The Progressive magazine is celebrating 100 years of publication. The current centennial issue, available at Borders, Barnes & Noble, or on-line to subscribers, is pure deja vu because it is happening all over again. In fact, it is interesting to see issues that surfaced years ago finally developing fully in our government today—the sellout of government to big money is just one example.

Here’s another (snippet):

The people know the press is owned or controlled. They know that it is the servant of the combined groups which control Big Business, and through Big Business is rapidly acquiring the control of little business, line after line.

But foreknowledge that the press habitually misrepresents the facts, that it suppresses news, that it is unreliable on all issues involving public interest as against private monopoly—foreknowledge of all these facts cannot protect the public against its sinister influence.

So potent is the psychological effect of the printed lie, when artfully and persistently repeated, so destructive of all soundness of judgment are the deadly half-truths, the “doctored” news, the sly insinuations, the sensational falsehoods, retracted after they have served their purpose—and all the varied and multiplied forms of spurious, deceptive fabrication, willfully and wickedly printed from day to day by the Kept Press—that however thoroughly it be discredited, it is still the most powerful influence for evil which menaces American democracy today. [The Progressive, Demand a Free Press, 1920]

So what else is new? It’s the same, right down to publishing lies and retracting them later, somewhere deep inside the paper where no one will notice. I think it’s fair that we can blame our newspapers for the sad fact that many (most?) Americans believe Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11, for example.

TV perhaps is the vast wasteland, but I’ve felt that if the newspapers printed the truth, it would overwhelm TV’s usually shabby reporting. As it is, when the 6 p.m. news promulgates the same lies that were in the morning paper, why should anyone believe anything different?

There’s a new twist in today’s Internet age: alternate sources of information. For example, when the Naval Ocean Systems Center googled for information on aluminum hull welds, they hit one of the Hawaii blogs, not our newspapers. Why? Because the story of the alleged welding issues at the Austal shipyard where the Superferry was made found their way into the blogs but was not carried by our newspapers. The newspapers are every bit as beholden to Big Business now, as they were in 1920. The Internet is new, as is the availability of citizen journalism and citizen press criticism. And the emergence of the Right and the Left duking it out in a battle of the blogs. So naturally, Big Business is backing its favorite blogs.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.


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