Swans Commentary: Letters to the Editor - letter279



Letters to the Editor

(April 21, 2014)


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Democracy anyone? Jan Baughman's The New World Of Expensive Speech

To the Editor:

While I sympathize with Jan's frustration over the probable ultimate electoral impact for all of us due to the Citizens United and McCutcheon vs FEC Supreme Court decisions, I have to take issue with her concluding comment, in that I believe that it misplaces blame by deflecting our attention from the core problem. In fact, neither of these Supreme Court decisions eliminate, or even dilute, the fundamental democratic principle behind the notion of "one person, one vote." If my constitutionally guaranteed right to vote for the candidate of my choice is not for sale by me, then no amount of capital poured into the election process by Mr. Adelson or the Koch boys can capture and take that vote away from me. Virtually all of the extra money handed out to candidates in expectation of legislative favors (providing the candidate runs a successful campaign) will end up being allocated to television advertising. An overwhelming majority of the American electorate has been fully acculturated to place their faith in the medium of television, allowing its ceaseless distortions of reality to mold and guide their understanding of the frightening and uncertain world in which they live. Given the marketing nature of the content of nearly all televised campaign advertising, this means that most Americans will enter the polling place not to record an informed and considered political decision, but rather to choose a brand, with little understanding of or concern for the political, economic, and social consequences likely to be delivered by their chosen brand in the aftermath of the election process. This is what the deep pocket donors have come to count on. In the light of this political reality regarding our collective intellectual indolence, these court decisions are unfortunate and certain to bring regrettable results. But it would be inaccurate to propose that the decisions of the justices in these cases have somehow rendered the basic tools of our democracy inoperable, when in fact they will merely exploit the incapacity of our infantilized electorate to make intelligent use of these tools to advance the cause of their own well-being. To accept Jan's conclusion is to admit that the American experiment in democracy has failed us, when I think that the more honest assessment may be that it is we who are failing at democracy.

Michael DeLang
Coal Creek Canyon, Colorado, USA - April 8, 2014


Is the CIA infiltrating Swans? Michael Barker's Ruling-Class Peace?

To the Editor:

I really wish you wouldn't continue to run Barker's lies and distortions in his recent "Ruling Class Peace," which are too numerous to mention. (For example, Mark Palmer has been dead for more than two years, making it rather difficult for him to be engaged in the ongoing activities Barker accuses him of being involved with.)

I think the most important thing I feel obliged to mention is that, as a revolutionary socialist (despite Barker claiming I am a "liberal"), I am in no way a defender of Ackerman or any capitalist nor am I a defender of what he calls "the Palmer-Ackerman military-peace nonprofit complex." I have simply challenged false charges that he and others have made alleging conspiracies that don't actually exist involving organizations with which I am affiliated.

It's true that I have worked and continue to work with groups which include some people who, like Ackerman, have close ruling class ties and with whom I have profound disagreements on any number of political and economic issues. For example, I work for a university which includes ruling class elites on its Board of Trustees. I am very careful, however, not to engage in or defend any activities that advance imperialism or capitalism, so I resent this kind of guilt-by-association that if I am connected with an organization which includes some capitalists I must therefore somehow support their agenda. I have found that through my work through the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, I have been able to disseminate information which progressive activists engaged in popular struggles in Palestine, Honduras, Western Sahara, West Papua, Egypt, here in the United States and elsewhere have found beneficial. I will continue to do so, despite efforts by Barker and others who apparently oppose my solidarity efforts to undermine them.

Indeed, I have long suspected that the efforts of Barker and others to discredit me and my work may be part of a COINTELPRO-style US government operation to divide the left and undermine international solidarity efforts supporting nonviolent anti-imperialist struggles, so I'd be real careful about making sure you are not inadvertently aiding the forces of imperialism who recognize the power of these resistance movements around the world and therefore seek to undermine those of us active in solidarity with them.


Stephen Zunes
Professor of Politics and Coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies, University of San Francisco
San Francisco, California, USA - April 12, 2014

[ed. Mark Palmer died in January 2013, not "more than two years" ago. The article has been slightly edited to reflect the error of the author, and a correction appended. This said, people short on arguments tend to resort to smear and ad hominem attacks. Amusingly, Michael Barker has already been accused of disseminating COINTELPRO-style disinformation. See note #7 of his Dec. 2009 article, "Failure Of Progressive Thought."

As to Professor Zunes's relations with democracy manipulators such as Peter Ackerman, et al, please see note #22 of Michael's Nov. 2008 article, "Co-opting Intellectual Aggressors."]


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Published April 21, 2014
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