Saturday, March 12, 2005

Goodbye Dan Rather--Hello 1984

Courage. That's what Dan Rather had. He didn't read the lines; he tried to think. He challenged convention. He was not intimidated by title or position. And for that he was hated. He was driven right out of his job so that the right-wing movement sweeping this nation would have one less independent reporter asking "Why?"

As Mr. Rather recalled recently:
After all, what other TV journalist has a Web site ( dedicated to cataloguing his alleged sins?

"I hadn't thought about it like that," he says with a rueful smile, "but it's true. And I may be the only one for which there was a concerted effort to buy the whole network in order to get me out of this job." That was in 1985, when Sen. Jesse Helms called for fellow conservatives across the nation to buy enough CBS stock to "become Dan Rather's boss" and counter alleged liberal bias at CBS News.

"It goes back a long way," notes Rather. "It's been my lot, my destiny, and I'm not sure I fully understand it. But I am, for better or worse, independent and, when necessary, fiercely independent. When somebody or some group takes the attitude, 'You can report the news the way we want you to, or we're gonna try to cave you in,' I don't turn my back on that. I don't run."
Thank you Dan Rather. We need more Americans who will stand and ask the questions. The politicians in America can run, but they can't hide!

As sung by the group " A Flock of Seagulls":

What's this I see?
You're try'n' to hide
Away from me,
Away from me.

Don't you know
That you can run
But you can't hide

No, you won't find
Your piece of mind
Away from me,
Away from me.

And in your mind
You will not find
Your piece of mind

You can run, (no, you can't run)
You can hide, (no, you can't hide)
You can run, (no, you can't run)
You can hide

So if the political right has successfully silenced another voice that won't run away, what are they replacing it with?

In 1949, the British Author George Orwell wrote the now famous novel "1984". Orwell explains the concept of "doublethink" in this novel:
To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully
constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which canceled out, knowing them to be
contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while
laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of
democracy, to forget whatever it was necessary to forget then to draw back into memory again at
the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again, and above all, to apply the
same process to the process itself-that was the ultimate subtlety: consciously to induce
unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just
performed. Even to understand the word 'doublethink' involved the use of doublethink.
That is the America that this administration is creating.

The character Winston, in 1984, worked in the "Records Department." As described:
Winston worked in the RECORDS DEPARTMENT (a single branch of the Ministry of Truth) editing and writing for The Times. He dictated into a machine called a speakwrite. Winston would receive articles or news-items which for one reason or another it was thought necessary to alter, or, in Newspeak, rectify. If, for example, the Ministry of Plenty forecast a surplus, and in reality the result was grossly less, Winston's job was to change previous versions so the old version would agree with the new one. This process of continuous alteration was applied not only to newspapers, but to books, periodicals, pamphlets, posters, leaflets, films, sound-tracks, cartoons, photographs - to every kind of literature or documentation which might conceivably hold any political or ideological significance.
We don't do that in America, do we? What about Guckert/Gannon manipulating Presidential Press Conferences right in the White House? What about the $240,000 paid to Armstrong Williams to write material favorable to the President? Or how about Mike McManus and Maggie Gallagher receiving money from the government?

Or as Daniel Kurtzman has written, 'Can a President be impeached for plagiarism...for copying George Orwell's 1984?':
As President Bush wages his war against terrorism and moves to create a huge homeland security apparatus, he appears to be borrowing heavily, if not ripping off ideas outright, from George Orwell. The work in question is "1984, " the prophetic novel about a government that controls the masses by spreading propaganda, cracking down on subversive thought and altering history to suit its needs. It was intended to be read as a warning about the evils of totalitarianism -- not a how-to manual.

Granted, we're a long way from resembling the kind of authoritarian state Orwell depicted, but some of the similarities are starting to get a bit eerie.
And now comes additional information, as reported by the New York Times, of this government's manipulation of the media with pseudo-news reports being fed into mainstream media as news pieces that are being run as such for the public. As they report:
Under the Bush administration, the federal government has aggressively used a well-established tool of public relations: the prepackaged, ready-to-serve news report that major corporations have long distributed to TV stations to pitch everything from headache remedies to auto insurance. In all, at least 20 different federal agencies, including the Defense Department and the Census Bureau, have made and distributed hundreds of television news segments in the past four years, records and interviews show. Many were subsequently broadcast on local stations across the country without any acknowledgement of the government's role in their production.
1984 is closer than we think. We have a President who has "Town Hall Meetings" by invitation only so that only favorable comments and questions will be made. This right-wing movement has attacked and cowered main stream media, and those like Dan Rather are dispensed with rather than respected.

1984 is closer to 2005 than we may like to believe. Dan Rather is right. Courage is called for.



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