25 October 2010

Answering Questions #6- Power

Answering Questions#6 -The nature of Power and how it presents itself to the world

In light of all the discussion regarding media and information, I thought it a good time to answer a question posed to me.
So why as a Christian do I turn to pagan journalists and commentators like Margolis, Paul Craig Roberts, and Al Jazeera? Shouldn't we look to FOX where so many of the reporters are Christian or at least have Christian sympathies?

With regard to someone like Margolis-

Yes I'm a fan, but not a slavish devotee. I actually disagree with him quite often, particularly when it comes to economics and other domestic issues. But when it comes to international affairs, he's always interesting and worthwhile even when there is some disagreement.

What's his agenda? What power does he serve? The truth I hope. Everyone, like it or not, has a philosophical grid which they filter things through and this affects how they see and therefore interpret the world. Sadly, there are many unbelievers who are trying to tell the truth in a way that many Christians are not. Oh, there are plenty of political and corporate creatures, unbelievers who are not interested in truth either, and there are a few Christians who are. With regard to the latter, this can only be attempted when Sacralist commitments are abandoned. Yes, we all have our biases, but Sacralism guarantees and in fact demands an agenda driven interpretation of historical and current events. Power is at stake.

What perhaps cannot be seen clearly with regard to American history (for American readers and students) can be easily discerned when it comes to some of the historical debates in other countries. Power drove Ceausescu to Romanian-ize the history and culture of Transylvania. Hungarians, Roma, and Transylvanian Saxons were persecuted. Slovaks were treated very poorly during the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary (1867-1919) and subjected to Magyarization, still a live issue even today. Americans contemporary with these events identified and critiqued what was happening. They were obvious crimes, but similar events are ignored when it clashes with American interests. What's at stake in these struggles, in these discussions? Power of course. Americans identify it with ease when it comes to others, but fail to see it when it comes to their own issues. I suppose that's true with any people. It would seem that it takes a tragedy for a nation to engage in real soul searching, like the Germans after 1945. But even then, current events show it must be an ongoing task. I think Merkel's recent speech regarding immigration shows this.

The Turks are desperate to write the Armenians, Greeks and Kurds out of the history of Anatolia. Why? Because if they admit that they are latecomers, they might be forced by international pressure to give up territory or pay reparations. So, the truth is compromised, because the power of the Turkish state is at stake. Beginning with Ataturk the Turkish identity was put forward in a way it never had been before. Ironically the modern Turk shares much genetically with the Armenians, Greeks, and even the Slavs, as thousands upon thousands of Slavic Muslim converts left the Balkans and entered Anatolia during the long Ottoman retreat. But these things cannot be admitted, including the murder of Armenians and Greeks during 1910-20's…nor can their persecution of the Kurds be admitted today. As a member of NATO, and possessing a key geo-strategic location for American forces located in their country they are permitted to continue their revisionism. They exercise their power for their own interests and are backed by a bigger power with a much broader vision.

As bad as the media is today, in the past it was much worse. Though the major outlets are still dominated by political and corporate interests, globalization and specifically technology has provided a venue for a committed and ideological journalist class to arise. Their ideology is journalism itself. Many of them deliberately strive and struggle to be non-partisan, not only in their reporting, but even in their private lives and actions. Viewing it as not merely a profession but a calling, the new class of journalist strives to do one thing…tell the truth.

It's really quite amazing, when you consider that natural fallen man always tends toward tribal loyalty, ethno-centrism or what we might call nationalism. These journalists aren't perfect, nor is it even possible to be truly objective, but they've looked at history and the world around them and they've obviously to varying degrees discerned the power of words and ideas.

It was Philip Schaff who said the conquests of the sword dwindle into insignificance in the face of ideas. Ideas rule the world, ideas are immortal. The wielders of power learned the lesson long ago, and there are relatively few in our society able to challenge the influence of the state. While many leaders in the Church think they're standing up to the state, they only represent the other side of the same circle. Nationalism is still statist whether on the right or left. Historians and journalists are the other segments, and only in recent times have some of them been liberated from state control. There are some pendulum swings and sometimes in their zeal some historians have gone too far in order to make a point. But the fact that it's happening is on some level is a good thing. To many Christians the 1950's was a golden age in terms of media. Hollywood largely produced romanticized fiction, the news merely echoed the Washington agenda, and history was in the hands of the establishment. Today, Hollywood produces smut and filth but also makes some of the best and thought provocative movies it ever has. Our media is still largely establishment, but now we have options, and while some history continues to be manipulated by many, some of the best and most comprehensive works ever written are now being produced.

Journalists don't merely report current events, they try and give it context. I do not wonder that some commentators like Margolis speak boldly, because for so long history and the media have been captives and pawns of the Powers. This is the blessing of the Internet era. Even with the all the bad the computer and Internet age has brought, it is this freedom, this ability to operate and open doors outside the realm of the Gatekeepers that has proved the greatest blessing. Finally it seems, people can start telling the truth. This pertains not only to currents events and history, but even in regard to ecclesiastical and theological issues. Things that virtually could not be said, now at least have a platform. The Gatekeepers gnash their teeth and yes it has allowed a lot quackery to gain an audience…but if that's the price we pay, then so be it.

This is why I'm interested in Al Jazeera English and some of the other newer media outlets. While it certainly has its sponsors it has allowed for a certain level of almost unprecedented journalistic freedom. This is why many of the journalists who are ideologically committed to telling the story in global and historical context, not in nationalistic or corporate categories, are flocking to such outlets.

Do the reporters have opinions? Of course. They're human, but they have a code of ethics which drives them to tell the truth and try and report all sides. How can they express their opinions? Some journalists are committed to avoiding this. Some will do it in other venues...for example a blog.

American conservatives tend to sneer at news organizations like NPR and the BBC. Because they receive government funding they are usually viewed as creatures of the state. This is only partly true. They do protect the establishment to a certain extent, but both organizations are quite free from corporate interests, hence their strength. There are sharp divisions even within establishment politics preventing one faction or the other from gaining control of the BBC or NPR. So within a certain sphere, they are granted considerable freedom. Thus, the BBC and NPR far exceed SkyNews, FOX, CNN, NBC or any of the other corporate driven outlets. Yet, even the BBC and NPR are limited. A very poignant example of this occurred on NPR the other day as they dealt with Southeast Turkey. They, like the rest of the American media completely ignored the plight of the Kurds. Why? We have to assume it is because to tell this story would incur the wrath of Ankara and thus make trouble for NATO, the State Department, and the Military-Industrial Complex. NPR is not likely to proceed along that path unless the political circle stretches, allowing them to expand their circle. They can follow the story…within the boundaries. It's kind of like voting. We can vote, but the candidates are approved by the establishment. Often the media will help in destroying someone who falls outside the box. Look at Howard Dean and his famous scream. He was a liberal, but outside the box, and all it took was a few seconds of audio to finish him off.

In the case of something like the Tea Party movement, those who actually win will either be corrupted before or after the election, or they will just be completely marginalized once they hold office. They will be exempted from committees, legislative attempts will fail to find sponsors, and thus they will wield virtually no power. The Evangelical Street seems to think these candidates are anti-establishment, but largely they seem to be creatures of the same corporate interests that dominate most of the conservative sphere. Peel back a layer as we find the same energy, pharmaceutical, and defense contractors we always find. There are already people within the Tea Party who are in a state of despair. They didn't even make it through one election cycle and already they have fallen prey to corporate influence.

Independent media via the Internet has the most promise but has been limited by funding and resources. We can turn to this type of media for specialized stories and interpretation, but as far as substantial well-funded daily and headline news sources…there are few options. Al Jazeera English is one of them, probably the best in the world at the moment, and apparently many reporters even from respected outlets like the BBC and NPR feel the same way. Many working there have left other respected outlets specifically because they wanted to escape nationalist paradigms and agendas.

If you sat Americans down and had them watch Russia Today they would within a reasonable time make the observation that the news outlet tells stories with a Moscow approved bias, and they would be right. Americans perceive Russian power as political and seated in the Kremlin.

The equation of American power is much more complex, de-centralized, and thus often missed. The White House is but one facet. There is a reason Al Qaeda targeted the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. The plane downed over Pennsylvania was apparently targeting either the White House or the Capitol. Either way, Al Qaeda was making a statement demonstrating a rather keen understanding of the nature of American power.

It is certainly triadic, but both political and military powers are highly dependent on corporate funding. Though the political power negotiates and imposes treaties, regulates commerce and industry…the corporations are deeply entrenched in this process. While corruption in America is minimal at the street level…bribing cops and inspectors, it is institutionalized at the national level. It doesn't have to hide, the system itself is corrupt from top to bottom…money is power, period. That's the way our government works, both in terms of legislation and in terms of the judiciary.

Do the corporations sit in the Pentagon War Room? They don't have to. The wars are promoted and prosecuted by their pawns…the political powers. They don't directly control the generals, but they play a role in that process as well…by selling the military the hardware and armaments they will employ.

So is it all the corporations? Is that what I'm about? No, but the Scriptures are clear regarding the root of all evil……..the love of money.

If I sound anti-American….Paul's statement is about as contrary to American culture and history as one could get. The love of money is the story of America. It has clouded our thoughts, our theology, and even our perceptions of truth and how we want the 'truth' told to us.

Something to consider as we watch the news.

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