Well, it's official; there's trouble right here in the land of the free.
Mr. Bush can not only use taxpayer's money to set up Soviet-Style propaganda
events, but he can have US citizens kicked out of these public meetings by
strong-armed stooges impersonating Secret Service Agents. That, at least, was
the conclusion last week by the US Justice Department Attorney who said there
was not enough evidence to prosecute an unnamed man who kicked three people out
of one of Mr. Bush's "town hall" meetings in Denver this past March. The White
House, by the way, refuses to release the mystery thug's name.
And here in the good old USA no one seems to give a damn.
Hundreds of billions of dollars and nearly two thousand American dead to
bring democracy to Iraq, but no need to go overboard with that freedom stuff
here at home, thank you.
Apparently, after years of government funded "Mission Accomplished,"
propaganda events, government-produced fake news casts, government-funded
journalists/shills, and a phoney reporter planted into the White House press
corps, we're just fresh out of outrage.
A series of fake town hall meetings in which First Amendment Rights are
violated just isn't the stuff of headlines anymore.
So now, the Bush machine routinely sets up stages with fake props and
Soviet-style backdrops, invites only registered Republicans; excludes anyone who
might – just possibly might – not be an ardent supporter; pre-screens the
questions; then hires goons to patrol the audience and strong-arm and illegally
arrest anyone who doesn't look ... well ... right (as in Right wing), trampling
the First Amendment in the process. These taxpayer-supported campaign events
they call a town meeting.
The only thing missing is the Brown Shirts.
But here in the land of the free, nary a peep of protest is heard, nary a
discouraging word is printed or uttered by the Democrats or the press.
For the last four years, the Democrats have been doing their best
deer-in-the-headlights imitation, and the press has been chasing various White
House wag-the-dog stories or faux terrorist alerts that just seem to crop up
when the spotlight focuses on their lies, deceptions, or their gross
incompetence -- or when an election is in the offing. In short, the American
press has been either fooled or intimidated, and the Democrats have been dazed
If you want to see democracy in action these days, you've got to look to
Recently, British MP George Galloway road into town and gave Norm Coleman and
his fellow neoconservative propagandists a public spanking. Coleman and the rest
of the right wing whackos have had such and easy time manipulating the press and
intimidating Democrats for the past four years they must have felt like they'd
But Mr. Galloway showed the Democrats how to confront demagoguery – with a
strong dose of the truth. No head down, poll driven spins, or weak-kneed
attempts to appeal to both sides. No deer-in-the-headlights stares, or weeks of
Bob Shrumm inspired contemplation. He called a liar a liar and he set the record
straight in plain, but eloquent language. Then he called a spade a spade – the
UN food for oil "scandal" has always been a smokescreen, an attempt to besmirch
Kofi Anan and the UN for no other reason than that neocons hate the UN. He
pointed out that our own national contribution to sleaze, corruption,
mismanagement and sheer greed in Iraq dwarfs anything the UN has done.
Hopefully, the Democrats were taking notes.
Mr. Galloway isn't the only European showing how a free people act.
For example, when the White House tried to set up one of their pre-scripted
propaganda events in Germany this past February the Germans would have none of
A "town hall" meeting with the German people in the town of Mainz was
supposed to be the PR highlight of the President's February trip. The White
House had spent a week talking it up, but when the Germans –a people who know a
bit about the corrosive effects of propaganda – refused to allow Bush's handlers
to review and screen all questions in advance, the White House quietly dropped
the event, according to Spiegel.
Mr. Bush and the American people got another lesson in how a free people act
on his recent trip to Europe in May to celebrate the defeat of the Nazis. A
group of students in the Netherlands showed just how gloriously cantankerous a
free people can be. At a meeting near Maastricht, Mr. Bush tried flying without
a net, in an unscripted question and answer session with the Dutch youth. After
a half hour of tough questions, worried White House aids cleared the room of
reporters before allowing the session to continue. No transcript of the
remaining questions was kept, no summary was released.
And it took an Irish journalist to show our spin-dried press how a real free
press acts. In July of last year, Irish TV journalist Carole Coleman was granted
an interview with George Bush just prior to his trip to Ireland and the
US-European Summit meeting. There in the White House map room, Ms. Coleman did
the unthinkable: she asked tough follow-up questions when Mr. Bush gave canned
non-responses. She had the unmitigated gall to point out that "... the world has
become a more dangerous place because you have taken the focus off al Qaeda and
diverted [it to] Iraq," and when Mr. Bush raised the specter of WMDs she did
what no American journalist has seemed able or willing to do – she interrupted
him to point out there were no WMDs found in Iraq.
Imagine the nerve of this woman, expecting the leader of the free world to
answer tough questions, stick to facts not fantasy, and to be accountable for
his actions. Well, of course, when the interview was over, an outraged White
House lodged a formal complaint with the Irish Embassy. Now, as Molly Ivins
likes to say, let's pause a moment and wrap our minds around this – the leader
of the free world lodged an official complaint with the Irish Embassy because
... one of their journalists asked him some tough questions, expected him to
respond, and applied a standard of factual accuracy to his answers.
Apparently the White House believes this free press stuff is fine in theory,
as long as it's not practiced.
Here again, contrast this with our press, who act like sheep on prozac when
given the opportunity to question the President.
There is trouble here in the land of the free. It starts with a cowed
opposition party that's forgotten that honesty and integrity are moral values,
but spinning, poll watching and pandering aren't.
It extends to a press that's forgotten that the First Amendment Rights they
were given come with a codicil – the requirement to relentlessly pursue the
truth, and a commitment to tell it.
And it ends with a public content to be fed a steady diet of J-Lo/Jacko
non-news, wag-the-dog wedge issues, and infotainment talk shows in lieu of the
But Mr.Galloway and his European friends may have shown us that politics
doesn't have to be a boring and predictable Kabuki dance – practiced with
integrity on all sides, it's more engaging than the runaway bride or the latest
missing damsel (whites, only please) in distress.
John Atcheson can be reached at email@example.com