Know what you do not know
Information is power.
"Wow, really?" a family member said recently, in response to the news that Afghanistan was now the longest-running war in American history. "That's funny…you just don't hear that much about Afghanistan."
No. No, you don't — and furthermore, it was "hearing about" Vietnam that directly contributed to ending that war. People started protesting because journalists started (disobeying the government and) bringing back pictures of the atrocities being committed there, which were then shown on the national news. The protests eventually sapped all political will to keep the war going. (Financial damage is key: Wars make money, tons of money for the right people. But protests cost it — in damage, cops, courts, lost work, boycotts, and political donations. You can almost see, if you read up on things that protesting has worked for, when the money-balance tipped.)
There aren't many American protests of Afghanistan, especially compared to Vietnam, and it's not, I hope everyone is smart enough to realize, because this is the world's first miraculously atrocity-free war. It's because American journalists have been pretty thoroughly cowed this time. The shocking news, the graphic pictures, may make a few blogs and Wikileaks, but the mainstream news sticks with a) Lady Gaga and b) discrediting Wikileaks, pretty much exclusively.
I remember when I realized for the first time that American media was censored: It was when I read a speech by John Paul II, the then-Pope of all Catholicdom, and in it he described very frankly why, according to Christian values, Capitalism the way America practices it is evil. This was on the Vatican's own website. I was confused, and did some searching — and yes, actually John Paul II had that opinion over most of his tenure, and he wasn't quiet about it. Jesus said "feed the poor", "heal the sick" and was pretty clearly against allowing wealth to coagulate into the top 1% of the population while everyone else struggled…hence, American capitalism flies in the face of Jesus' teachings, and the head of the Jesus-worship clan was not okay with it. (Other prominent Xtian scholars remain not-okay with it — one speaks on-camera in "Capitalism: A Love Story", for instance.)
Number of times I have ever heard the John Paul II's opinion of capitalism talked about on a major American media outlet: Zero. And the only possible way that could be true is that Americans are being flat-out censored. So ever since then, I've known it, and just kept that knowledge under my hat with a whole bottle of salt for use whenever I'm around mainstream media.
I don't suspect I'll get much argument from most thinking people on this, so rather than hammer on the point, I'd like to offer a little salve: The Independent (a British news company) ran a brilliant article yesterday, describing "The Under-Appreciated Heroes of 2010". I highly recommend everyone read the article, but for now I'm going to do what blogs do best: Condense the pertinent information from the article into bits you have time for, even if you can't read the whole thing. It's amazing, even in snipped form.
Also, let's face it — something like this may be taken down eventually, or Americans may lose access to it. In those cases (and they happen — and recent changes to government powers and oversight of the Internet will make them happen more), it's important to have "backup data". I'm happy to devote some virtual-estate to this.
So here you are — see if you've heard the juice on these heroes (an especially interesting exercise if you're not in the U.S.) and enjoy having your mind blown at least once, I promise. And Viva la fuck censorship!! ;)
(Snips under the cut)
1. Bradley Manning. Snip:
"Manning had to choose between being complicit in these atrocities [torture of Iraqi civilians], or not. At the age of 21, he made a brave choice: to put human rights before his own interests. He found the classified military documents revealing that the US was covering up the deaths of 15,000 Iraqis and had a de facto policy of allowing the Iraqis they had installed in power to carry out torture – and he decided he had a moral obligation to show them to the American people.
To prevent the major crime of torturing and murdering innocents, he committed the minor crime of leaking the evidence. He has spent the last seven months in solitary confinement – a punishment that causes many prisoners to go mad, and which the US National Commission on Prisons called "torturous". He is expected to be sentenced to 80 years in jail at least. The people who allowed torture have faced no punishment at all. Manning's decision was no "tantrum" – it was one of the most admirable stands for justice and freedom of 2010."
2. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Snip:
"The only African leader who appears with any regularity on our TV screens is the snarling psychopath Robert Mugabe, spreading his message of dysfunction and despair. We rarely hear about his polar opposite.
In 2005, the women of Liberia strapped their babies to their backs and moved en masse to elect Africa's first ever elected female President. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was a 62-year-old grandmother who had been thrown in prison by the country's dictators simply for demanding democracy. She emerged blinking into a country trashed by 14 years of civil war and pillaged by dictators – but she said she would, at last, ensure that the Liberian state obeyed the will of its people.
In the face of a chorus of cynics, she did it. She restored electricity for the first time since 1992. She got the number of children in school up by 40 per cent. She introduced prison terms for rapists for the first time. Now she is running for re-election in a fully open and contested ballot."
3. Senator Bernie Sanders. Snip:
"In 2010, the hijacking of American democracy by corporations and the super-rich became almost complete….In the middle of a recession, there was a massive tax cut for millionaires and billionaires – and a tax rise on the poorest Americans. ….
Bernie Sanders was elected as the independent socialist senator for Vermont with 65 per cent of the vote in 2006, in a fight against the richest man in the state. He won by turning down Big Money and instead organising amongst ordinary citizens – by promising to defend their interests against the people ripping them off.
…In the place of the fake populism of the Tea Party, he offered real populism. In office, he kept his word. He has been demanding a real healthcare deal, trying to end the country's disastrous jihadi-creating wars, and captured America's imagination by standing for nine hours in the Senate trying to filibuster Obama's sell-out of his principles and his people. This is what democracy looks like."
4. The Saudi Arabian women who are fighting back. Snip:
"Women like Wajehaal-Huwaider are struggling against a tyranny that bans them from driving, showing their face in public, or even getting medical treatment without permission from their male "guardian". The streets are policed by black-clad men who enforce sharia law and whip women who express any free will.
Saudi women are being treated just as horrifically as Iranian women – but because their oppressors are our governments' allies, rather than our governments' enemies, you hear almost nothing about them."
5. The real N'avi. Snip:
"The people of Kalahandi, India, saw the film Avatar and recognised it as their story. The land they had lived in peacefully for thousands of years – and considered sacred – was in their eyes being destroyed and pillaged by a Western bauxite mining corporation called Vedanta, whose majority owner lives in luxury in Mayfair.
The local protesters didn't give up. They appealed for international solidarity, so Vedanta meetings in London were besieged by people dressed as N'avi. …They saved their land."