George Graham

The Rise of the Right-Wing Thought Police in America

I believe it was Benjamin Franklin who first said the squeaky wheel gets the grease, so the power of persistent protest is nothing new. But, while the truth of the observation is demonstrated in every facet of American life,from Congressional “pork” to research grants, it is nowhere more evident than in the media.

Years of relentless squeaking have converted “mainstream” American media to the conservative cause. And, as a result, public opinion has shifted significantly to the right. It’s a vicious circle, and the likely conclusion is frighteningly Orwellian.

Lawrence Davidson, writing for a service called “Reader Supported News,” reports that:

Since the end of World War II, leftist ideas have been demonized almost out of existence in the U.S.. And, since 9-11, the “commies” have been transformed into Muslims. These simplistic stereotypes set the parameters for correct and patriotic thinking in this country, and they are delivered to you at different levels of intensity by both the conservative and “neutral” media systems. No matter how apolitical one might be in one’s daily local life, these notions are in the media air, so to speak. You take them in almost by osmosis. They mess with your mind without you realizing it.

Davidson complains that “in the past several months, conservative outbursts have ruined the careers of journalists, most of whom were of the political center, but who were indiscreet enough to say something that ran counter to the right’s version of political correctness.”

He writes that:

The latest victim in this on-going campaign is Octavia Nasr, who for the last 20 years worked at CNN and, up until July 7, 2010, was the network’s Middle East News Editor. She made the mistake of expressing appreciation for Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, a recently-deceased and important member of Hezbollah. What she liked about Fadlallah was his stand on women’s rights in the Middle East. That was enough to release the dogs of war on the right. No matter that no one who complained about Nasr knew anything about Fadlallah as a person. His association with Hezbollah was enough. Typically, CNN caved in to the attack without a struggle. Almost immediately upon receiving the protests the network executives decided that Nasr’s “credibility” had been destroyed. Nasr herself commented that she had learned “a good lesson on why 140 characters [the length of her statement on Fadlallah] should not be used to comment on controversial or sensitive issues, especially those dealing with the Middle East.” She misses the point. It is not the length of her comment, which was expressed as a private “tweet,” that did her in. It was the fact that she expressed a considered opinion that showed respect for a man the American right, with little or no accurate knowledge, had decided to hate. In truth, it is CNN’s credibility that is called into doubt by this incident. But there is little new about that.

As noted, Nasr is only the latest victim. Last month it was Helen Thomas, whose 60-year career as a journalist abruptly ended when she expressed her frustration with Israel. She said that the Israeli Jews ought to go back to Germany and Poland. All hell broke loose on that one. No one seemed to notice that a good many Israeli Jews are in fact going back to Germany and other European countries. Indeed, more Jews are leaving Israel than are coming in. Also, no one dared mention that while Helen Thomas was indulging in wishful thinking, the Israelis have spent the last sixty years in fact making refugees of as many Palestinians as they could. But such facts are of little interest to the right. Helen Thomas was quickly forced into retirement.

Here are the names of some other victims. The details of their cases can be had by following the links provided by Glenn Greenwald’s piece on this same subject posted at Salon.com (July 8, 2010). David Weigel was fired by the Washington Post for expressing scorn for the likes of Rush Limbaugh. Eason Jordon was fired by CNN for publicly expressing concern about the US military’s appalling habit of shooting at journalists not officially “embedded.” Back in 2003, NBC fired Peter Arnett for remarks on Iraqi TV raising doubts about Bush Jr’s invasion of that country. The right had accused him of treason. MSNBC fired Ashleigh Banfield for suggesting that the American media were all becoming mimics of Fox TV. Even Phil Donahue got axed because he was perceived as being critical of President Bush Jr.’s war. This list of notables is only the tip of the iceberg. Who knows how many non-notables hit the unemployment lines because of the revival of McCarthyite tactics by the American far right.

You can read the article here:

http://readersupportednews.org/opinion/42-42/2402-right-wing-thought-police-an-analysis

Davidson blames “a for-profit, largely unprincipled, ‘neutral’ media” … “an aggressive political right run by loud-mouthed thugs” and “a liberal political class that has very little backbone” for the success of the right-wing thought police.

But there’s more to it than that.

Ever since the public uprisings against the Vietnam War, American conservatives have been involved in an organized and amply funded crusade to oppress liberal thought. Many millions have been invested in think tanks, university programs, web sites and “citizens’ groups.”

The move to the right has been facilitated by increasing corporate ownership of the media. In some cases, the corporate complex that owns a media outlet also is involved in arms production or some other enterprise with a life-or-death stake in politics.

These media interests will tell you that they are responding to” public opinion,” but in reality the squeaks they hear are coming from an organized movement funded by billionaires and supported by special interests.

The leaders of this diabolical crusade know the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and they know how to make the wheel squeak.

About the author

gwgraeme

I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for Jamaicans.com