Globalization & the Ministry of Truth

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Common Dreams

Globalization & the Ministry of Truth

"Seattle is dead." I recall someone mentioning this shorthand for the globalization protests against the World Trade Organization and IMF in the days following the September 11 attacks. The battle in Seattle had been displaced by the battle for our very lives. Good versus evil. Freedom versus tyranny. Bin Laden versus Bush. Oh we of little faith. Did we really think that the globalization debate would go away for good? It's back but in a post-9/11 reconstituted form that draws new revisionist battle lines. In looking back, some now want to point to the battle in Seattle as a precursor to the war on terrorism, narrowly framed between those who love freedom and those who would destroy it. Consider this observation from Helle Dale, editorial page editor for the Washington Times:

"Perceptive observers have pointed out that, despite the vast difference in scale, the terrorists of September 11 had a certain amount in common with the anti-globalization demonstrators who descended on Seattle, Geneva, Stockholm and other venues of international meetings -- a deep-seated hatred of the modern world." ("Let the Markets Rule," Washington Times, April 3, 2002)

Let's revision, why don't we. Either you are with the terrorists and anti-globalization demonstrators, or you are against us. It almost makes one nostalgic for that momentary lapse in Christian charity and compassion when another 'perceptive observer' Jerry Falwell said that "the pagans, the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America, I point the finger in their face and say, `You helped this happen.'"

United we stand, Reverend.

Helle Dale's ad hominem attack linking global citizen protest to global terror came in the form of an ironic approving nod to that bulwark of 'liberal/left' public broadcasting system (PBS) for airing, "Commanding Heights: The Battle for the World Economy"(http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/commandingheights), a six-hour globalization, Inc. literacy project. Dale could not resist weighing in on the station's health: "One imagines that the conclusive victory of free-market economics over central planning and state control must have been rather a bitter pill to swallow at PBS, where capitalism is not often celebrated. Perhaps it is due to the meticulous case built by the authors, whose book of the same title has been published by Touchstone Books/Simon and Schuster, that the programs are aired at all."

Hmm. 'Meticulous' sounds scientific and objective until Dale mentions 'case built.' Then one starts to wonder. Could it be that the authors were helped along in their case-building by substantial corporate underwriting that made it all flow together seamlessly? In an effort to be a more perceptive observer in a capitalist society, I tend to follow the money. And in the case of "Commanding Heights," it leads one to the heights of corporate sponsorship in the form of EDS, British Petroleum, FedEx, Microsoft, and the Calvin Kazanjian Economics Foundation, Inc. for helping build that case and the impressive website, book, and video accompaniments.

You ask, Kazanjian who? The mission of the Kazanjian Economics Foundation, as stated on its website (www.kazanjian.org) begins with a quip from its founder, Calvin K. Kazanjian: "The purpose of business is to serve. Profits from this service are not measured in dollars but rather in increased happiness resulting from such service." - CKK. That's the shorthand version. CKK weighs in again, in case you missed the point the first time: "The way to greater happiness and prosperity for all lies in mutual understanding of economics and mutual cooperation in the true spirit of the Golden Rule. You and I and millions like us throughout America must first understand the problems, must clearly see the obstacles that hold us back. Then, whether we be in industry, agriculture, labor or government, do our part by first removing the obstacles we ourselves are placing in the path of Progress, then insist that others do their part. By our united might, through our voice and our vote, we must push aside all those who, through greed or ignorance, place blocks on the road to Progress and Prosperity. It can be done, it will be done, if you and millions like you will do your part." -- Calvin K. Kazanjian 1889-1948

Beam me up, CKK.

With a vision like Mr. Kazanjian, you can only imagine that the roadblockers and lowlights on that road to Progress and Prosperity include the political economy writings of those who were not interviewed by the series producers, including The Best Democracy Money Can Buy by Greg Palast, When Corporations Rule the World by David Korten, One Market Under God by Thomas Frank, The Selling of 'Free Trade' by John MacArthur, No Logo by Naomi Klein, Global Dreams by Richard Barnet and John Cavanaugh, and The Case Against the Global Economy by Jerry Mander and Edward Goldsmith.

Is it the Golden Rule or that some should not speak unless spoken to?

The function of a Ministry of Truth is to deliver the official party line. In a one-party totalitarian state, it's easy to follow the simple rules: obey the official doctrine and you'll be okay. If you stray from the party line, the bludgeon will take over. It doesn't matter what you really think because your actions are controlled through force. Democratic societies like the United States have no Ministry of Truth because the government is limited in controlling behavior through force. On paper, we Americans have vigorous debate, lots of opinions, and no thought police but the debate takes place within ever narrowing margins. This is what the globalization debate has become. Anyone who dares question the sacred cows of global progress measured through limitless growth, the free market and privatization is marginalized as some kind of troublemaker, John Dewey-eyed idealist, enemy of the state or shopping mall.

"Commanding Heights" is just like it sounds: a view-from-the-top discussion of the global economy. And from high above even planet earth looks peaceful.

Nancy Snow

Nancy Snow is a Senior Visiting Research Professor and Abe Fellow at Keio University in Tokyo working on a book about Japan’s image in the world since 3/11. Her forthcoming book is Truth is the Best Propaganda: Edward R. Murrow's Speeches in the Kennedy Years (Miniver Press). She can be reached at www.NancySnow.com.

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