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Sunday, November 26, 2006

journalists as thoughtless as moms in iowa who screw nuclear warheads on missiles at the munitions factory so they can take their kids to Disneyland

Theatre -- George Monbiot brings doom then hope to Vancouver

But like Robert Fisk and Noam Chomsky who came to Vancouver before him,
he does hold out one hope for the future: us

By Kevin Potvin

Noam Chomsky, Robert Fisk, and George Monbiot walk into a bar; bartender
says, “What is this, some kind of joke?” But of course it’s no laughing
matter what these three revered authors have all come to Vancouver
recently to say. Not many people knew, for example, that Vietnam is
compelled to keep paying reparations payments to the United States
resulting from the war that took place in Vietnam, ended three decades
ago, and by the general consensus as a loss for the US. It was Chomsky who
revealed this utter grotesquery of justice, adding that Democratic
president-with-a-heart Bill Clinton eased the burden somewhat by offering
to deduct from the bill any new spending on education that Vietnam
initiates. Ain’t that kind?

Revelations by the two British journalists were just as striking. But it
must be a peculiarly annoying British trait that accords respect to
journalists who haplessly get into all sorts of trouble in the oddest
corners of the far-flung world. In both their introductions to Vancouver
audiences, written by themselves, both Fisk and Monbiot laid heavy
emphasis on their Evelyn Wough creds, drawing attention to police beatings
and jailings they have suffered, exotic insect bites they have endured,
and in Monbiot’s case, the cerebral malaria he caught, causing him to be
pronounced dead in a hospital somewhere in northern Kenya. That certainly
tops most other British journalists’ stories, but Canadian audiences might
be more impressed by a journalist able to describe how he caught no weird
deadly viruses, got bit by nothing dangerous, and avoided all
skull-crushing encounters with police. Note to all British journalists: on
this side of the pond, you just sound careless when you rattle off all the
injuries and accidents you have suffered while doing your job.

Aside from that, what Monbiot offered Vancouver audiences last week, and
Fisk a couple of months ago, and Chomsky sometime last year, adds up to a
pretty grim picture. The global climate is very near to crossing the
threshold that brings irreversible warming, said Monbiot, mostly due to
abject failure of political leadership to recognize the problems brought
by unrestrained economic growth and industrialization, particularly in the
wealthy West, lead in particular by the Americans. The wars for dwindling
resources, particularly energy resources and the capacity of the Earth to
absorb environmental degradation by the burning of fossil fuels, are on
now, says Fisk, lead by the wealthy West again, in particular America. And
most people who might have the democratic ability to demand a different,
more sensible and sustainable, approach to both problems, says Chomsky,
lack information because of a woefully conformist press, and anyway they
don’t have enough democracy enabling them to act even if they knew they
had to, because the political systems of the wealthy West, in particular
those in America, offer only a (sophisticated) fa├žade of democracy.

Time is short, what to do?

Monbiot parted with one final shot in his hour-long presentation: it’s up
to us to do something. That’s the subtext running through pretty much all
of Chomsky’s work too: democracy can be a powerful tool for creating
progressive and sustainable state policy, but it has to be used, and that
can only happen when the media plays its proper role. But the prospects of
that happening anytime soon, according to both Monbiot and Fisk—among the
highest regarded media journalists in the English world presently—is slim
so long as media remains monopolized in the very few hands of the very

So the solution—and there must be a solution, or we’re for sure doomed—
begins it seems with a media liberated from the clutches of those few rich
guys so that the public can be more fully informed and motivated to use
their latent democratic powers to force their political leaders to act
more certainly in their interests and to beat back the big business
interests and their shameless shills who are using their undemocratic
political power to strangle the Earth’s prospects for survival for the
sake of blind shareholder return for those same few rich guys.

The problem, as I’ve found it, is that if you so much as mention Noam
Chomsky or Robert Fisk and their media critiques in any gathering of
journalists, you are met with utter contempt and cynical dismissal. It’s
partly because knee-jerk dismissal of everything, if you squint your eyes
enough, can be made to appear as sophisticated skepticism, a prerequisite
for journalists. But genuine, informed skepticism is hard to acquire,
hence the handy and very cheap imitation. Only a buffoon in the sciences
would stand around at a cocktail party and breezily declare Einstein got
it all wrong or was incomplete in his analysis or didn’t really mean this
energy or that matter, yet at parties of journalists, those who cannot
even properly construct a paragraph feel boozily confident enough to
dismiss Chomsky. Most of what he says to journalists therefore tragically
falls on intentionally deaf ears; anyone who tries to repeat what he says
or directly apply to their craft what he prescribes, is heartily laughed
at. A junior cub reporter knows more than Chomksy, Fisk, and Monbiot
combined, or so the prevailing attitude among journalists seems to be. No
one, therefore, is willing to try to practice what Chomsky and the others
are preaching.

But even this article, a slight directed at journalists, will be dismissed
with a curt “blaming the journalists again!” tsk’ing. That’s only fair
though: I do think big corporate media is at the root of all evil, and the
journalists who make it all possible are as guilty and thoughtless as the
moms who screw nuclear warheads on missiles at the munitions factory in
Iowa so they can take their kids to Disneyland.

This issue of The Republic completes six years of our efforts to create a
liberated and independent media, and we can certainly reply to Monbiot,
Fisk, and Chomsky with a laundry list of problems encountered by anyone
trying to fulfill that key requirement for democracy and sustainability
they all set out. On the other hand, as battles to save the planet go, it
hasn’t been that hard.

See the article in this issue about how you can become a member of a real
editorial board and help create an actual print newspaper supplement in
ten weeks—an experience, once you are taken through it, that you’ll be
able to repeat on your own or with friends as many times as you wish on
into the future.

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