December 10, 2001
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The Internet, myth has it, is a compelling counterweight to the corporate
media that controls information in most of the Western world. In email, as
well as in chat rooms and discussion groups, individuals have the right
and the power to exchange information and to express viewpoints that are
effectively ignored by the mainstream media.
That's more urban legend than reality, of course. Individuals don't have the resources of a cable network news team owned by a conglomerate, for example. The 'information' or 'news' they can speak to is rarely anything other than disguised opinion and prejudice. And unpopular viewpoints are nearly as rare in cyberspace as in what cybernauts call Real Life. They are too often buried under the weight of majority opinion and the vituperative rants of those who mistake volume for wisdom.
In cyberspace, just as in the outside world, dissent is a dirty word, a dangerous word at least when it comes to dissent from this obscene war that the richest and most powerful nation in the world is waging against one of the world's smallest and weakest.
In the Usenet discussion group I most frequent, my suggestions that it is wrong to kill and maim Afghan children are met with incredulity, or cant about the dead in the World Trade Center by people apparently incapable of seeing the irony of fighting terrorism with terrorism. Necessary 'collateral damage,' say some blandly. To others, my opposition to the war is "treason" and I am libelously labeled "Tokyo Deck."
I used to joke that conservatives were missing the empathy gene, making compassionate conservatism an impossibility. In this war, as in the last one against Yugoslavia, liberals also have apparently lost any sense of empathy. It's not their children, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers who are dying, starving, or being maimed, and they can't see the dead and wounded as anything other than 'the enemy.' They look on in mild distaste, as one might watch the destruction of a wasp's nest.
Far more disturbing, however, is the fact that few people join the discussion at all. While the U.S. pounds to dust a nation whose only sin was that it 'supported' a man 'suspected' of being behind the 9-11 terrorist acts, the vast majority of lurkers and participants in this discussion group sit silently. Their silence is seen as assent by those who do go toe to toe over the issues of the war and probably is. One other group goes even further, trivializing the death and destruction by turning discussion threads about war into jokes about penises, cats, or chocolate.
What happens in one discussion group out of the scores of thousands on the Internet is, of course, of no real significance. I fear, however, it is a microcosm of the U.S.
In the world outside of cyberspace, dissent is also virtually absent. The mainstream corporate media gives it short shrift. Op ed pages, once designed to provide readers with alternative viewpoints, now parrot the party line. War opponents rarely see print. On TV newscasts and discussion panels, dissenters are ominously absent. Newspapers and tv networks warn staffers to ignore or downplay Afghan civilian casualties, and the on-camera talent wear flag lapel pins as they 'objectively' report the news. Several of the very few news people and entertainers who have dared express even mild criticism of the war have been demoted or fired.
None of this is new. The Smothers Brothers comedy show, for example, was muscled off the air in the 60s because of their opposition to the Vietnam War. What IS new is the degree of control that the Pentagon and White House has over war coverage with the acquiescence of the corporate media in that censorship. What is new is the degree to which infotainment has replaced news, and the repudiation of the once-revered ethic of objectivity. Newsmen are now soldiers at war, not newsmen objectively reporting on the action.
Americans who want to know what's really going on have to read the foreign press and web sites like Swans.com, Antiwar.com and a few others if they have access to the Internet.
Or, like Soviet citizens before the breakup of the Soviet Union they have to learn to read between the lines.
Perhaps a combination of both strategies will yet save us. Perhaps Americans will begin to see through the censored news and demand answers to what we are doing in Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world. If they do, a lot more people will become dissenters.
But I fear it won't happen. We may have waited too long to fight the military/industrial complex. They own the government and they own us. I'm not sure democracy can survive that.
Deck Deckert has spent nearly two decades as copy editor, wire editor and news editor at several metropolitan newspapers, including the Miami Herald and Miami News, before becoming a freelance writer. His articles and stories on everything from alligator farming to UFOs have appeared in numerous U.S. publications. He has written two young adult novels under a pen name, and co-authored a novel about the NATO war on Yugoslavia, Letters from the Fire, with Alma Hromic, who he met in an Internet discussion group. Deckert and Hromic subsequently married and are writing a book about their experience with Internet romance, Cyberdance.
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This Week's Internal Links
Un-American, Fly-Shit Melody - by Gilles d'Aymery
Le Déserteur (The Deserter) - by Boris Vian
This War Is a Fraud - by Stephen Gowans
Decentralized Intelligence - by Michael W. Stowell
Depleted Uranium or Depleted Conscience? - by Jeff Lindemyer
When Did The Lies Begin? - by Milo Clark
A Power Game Made in Serbia - by Mile N. Tankosic
Support Christ and Your Local Library - by Matthew J. Barry
Freedom - by Ambrose Bierce
Deck Deckert on Swans
Essays published in 2001
Articles Published on Swans Regarding the War in Yugoslavia and its Aftermath