Hey folks. I haven’t written since the war began. I spent the first week protesting and the weeks since banging my head against a wall hoping if I do it hard enough my country will come back. I mean can you fucking believe that shit on the USS Abraham Lincoln? Bush, renowned draft dodger and AWOL weekend warrior, dresses up like a soldier and lands in a fucking jet so he’ll seem like “one of them” on TV. It was just like that celebrity stunt show where Vanilla Ice jumped a motorcycle, except this one is being paid for by our tax dollars. They said Bush had to go in a military jet because the carrier was too far at sea for a helicopter. But the next day they admitted that actually the helicopter would’ve worked better, and that they had had to slow down the ship and change its course to get a camera angle where you only saw water in the background, not the nearby San Diego coastline. The carrier had already been emptied of fighter jets but the White House requested they keep one of them there so it could be in the background during the speech. I know all presidents are phoneys but has there ever been one more phoney? The only thing that could’ve made the whole thing worthwhile would be if that famous Washington DC statue of Abraham Lincoln had come to life Dai Majin style, risen out of the water and started banging Bush over the head with his chair.
Anyway I apologize if this column seems even more rambling than usual. I’ve been working on it for a while but there are so many outrages every day that I had to keep updating and adding and deleting. But here it is.
I mean what can you even say at this point? Or worse, what can you not say? As soon as you start complaining, you realize there is no convenient place to stop.
I can’t help but feel like we left the door unlocked and some fuck came in and stole our democracy while we were out getting beer. It’s not just that the guy got into office by getting his brother and his dad’s friends on the Supreme Court to stop the votes from being counted. It’s also everything the fucker has done since then. He is constantly showing a profound disrespect for democracy. I was just reading about him hanging out with John Howard and saying, “He was steady under fire. He stood his ground when he needed to stand his ground because he understands the difference between right and wrong.”
In other words, Howard stood his ground against the overwhelming opinion, er I mean focus group, of his people. It is the same across the board: the “new Europe” countries that Bush and friends have praised are countries where the government supported the war despite overwhelming public opinion against it. Meanwhile Bush and his asslicking toadie bitches (er, republicans) actually want to PUNISH France and Germany for not supporting the war, which would have meant overruling the overwhelming sentiment of their citizens.
It’s not only regime change that begins at home, it’s democracy too. But I guess they’re not really even talking about democracy in Iraq anymore. They’re starting to realize that maybe their Iraqi National Congress informants were wrong, and the entire rest of the world was right, that giving Iraqis the government they want means giving them an Islamic government. All the sudden it’s, “whoops, did we say, no, we didn’t say DEMOCRACY did we? No, we just said freedom, I believe. Not like in France but like in, you know, everybody loves freedom and how awesome it is and everything. I have to go hide in the oil ministry now, see ya.”
I think the scariest thing about it all is the way the news channels just decided to give up journalism and become propaganda ministries. How do they even do it? I understand that it’s in the network’s best interest to kiss ass – some of them are owned by corporations that manufacture weapons, all of them want Colin Powell’s son to give them favorable deals when the FCC deregulates media ownership even more (vote on June 2nd). But that’s not enough to explain it. It’s still technically a free press. These people are still technically human beings, presumably with beating hearts, so I don’t understand how they let themselves go on TV and do this. How do you work in a profession that seems to no longer exist?
I didn’t really think I could become more angry at what’s going on in my country but it happened a week or two back when I first read that American troops had shot and killed unarmed Iraqi protesters. It only came from one source, the AFP (American Foreign Press?) but it looked legit.
I watched CNN, MSNBC, even as much FOX as I could stomach. No mention, not even on the scroll. I talked to other people about it, nobody had heard about it. If this had really happened it would be pretty huge. We supposedly went there to liberate these people, now they’re asking us to leave and we’re killing them for it. The sad thing is I’ve seen how riot police treat american citizens at protests, so I can easily imagine that 20 year old kids trapped in a foreign land, surrounded by a culture they don’t understand telling them angrily to get the fuck out of their land… it’s easy to imagine those kids would shoot into the crowd. Sorry, “support the troops”, go USA etc. but it’s not as surprising as it is disgusting.
Still, it’s a pretty horrible turning point in this war, a Kent State type incident. Even if you really believed the Iraqis loved the Americans being there you might start to think, wait a minute, is it going to stay that way after this?
Well by now it’s night and I’ve known about this since the morning and I’m thinking you assholes, how come I know about this and you’re the fucking journalists? They showed a clip from Ari Fleischer’s briefing that day where they asked him about the Anti-American protests. If the Iraqis are so happy that we liberated the shit out of them and their homeland, then why are they now protesting our presence there? Fleischer, using his trademark “I dare you to punch me in the balls like I deserve” smarm, said something to the effect that “today will be remembered as the day Iraqis took to the street to protest and were not shot for it.”
Except, of course, they had been shot for it, and if Vern in Seattle, Washington knew that then you better fucking believe White House press secretary Ari Fleishcer knew too. But he still had the balls to say that. At this point even I’m thinking you know, these guys wouldn’t be THAT obvious. And it was only that one source, and nobody else has verified it. It must’ve been made up. I went to bed feeling better about the world.
But of course the next day I found more stories with more details. Some said the protests were started by an American flag being raised on an Iraqi government building. Whatever happened, Centcom admitted that American soldiers had shot Iraqi citizens. In their version, “schoolboys with AK-47s” had fired on the troops, which was why it was okay and not a big deal to FIRE MACHINE GUNS INTO A CROWD OF UNARMED PROTESTERS.
I turned on CNN, and it wasn’t the top story but eventually they did have a report from Mosul. The weird thing was, they didn’t explain what happened. They just said there was confusion and some kind of “gunfire.” If you didn’t already know what happened you would have no idea what they were talking about, but if you did then you could piece together that the report was supposed to be about the shooting incident.
Well I’m sure since then there has probaly been some time where the corporate news have actually explained the incident, I just haven’t seen it. But these things keep happening and they are hugely important events but you wouldn’t know it from the way they are covered – or more often not covered. There was the one where Iraqi police officers trying to stop bank robbers fired shots in the air, so American soldiers machine gunned a crowd of people including the police officers. Then there was the one where Iraqi youths surrounded their school demanding that the American soldiers stop using it as a base so they could go to school. Of course, the soldiers fired on them – if I remember correctly they killed 13 people and injured 53. The next day, while thousands protested those shootings, American soldiers drove by in a jeep and again fired into the crowd, killing more people. Also there was the day when a huge explosion killed a bunch of civilians – witnesses said the soldiers had been blowing up cars with weapons in them, and this one got out of control. The official Pentagon line, though, was that an “unknown Iraqi” had fired flares into an ammo dump and made them all go off at one time, like in Naked Gun. The Iraqis were so disgusted with the Americans that when they tried to help with the injured, Iraqis threw rocks at them.
In all of these incidents the Pentagon had a cover story, usually involving shots fired from unknown sources. We’re talking crowds of thousands where no Iraqis seem to have heard shots, and the gunmen were never caught or identified, but god bless America and the troops would never do anything wrong. In the rare cases where I saw the incidents mentioned on tv news, they used the Pentagon cover story and did not mention that witness accounts contradicted it. And even in the more accurate newspaper articles, the headlines are always passive. Not “Americans shoot Iraqi civilians” or “US troops gun down protesters” but “bullets fly in Mosul” or “violence continues.” Better not make it clear what happened in the headline. What if somebody reads it?
AND THEY HAVE KIDS LOCKED UP WITHOUT CHARGES!
And by the way, did you hear that the Pentagon was forced to admit that they have CHILDREN locked up in Camp X-Ray? In case you forgot, that’s the camp in Guantanamo Bay where they are still keeping POWs from the invasion of Afghanistan. They don’t call them POWs though, they call them “enemy combatants” so they don’t have to follow the Geneva conventions. They admit that they use sleep deprivation and other cruelty for interogations, but they claim that they go just under the line of what would be considered torture, so it’s okay. There have been numerous suicides there and they have actually claimed that these are people who were already depressed when they were captured and that it doesn’t have anything to do with being locked up under cruel conditions with no charges or hope of release.
Now an Australian paper reported that there were children there, and our military admitted it. Only they call them “juvenile combatants” between the ages of 11 and 16. They would not say how many there are or their specific ages but they said it was okay because SOME of them have killed before.
I mean is your blood beginning to boil yet? Is this the America you believe in? But what’s worse, that we do this or that we don’t fucking care that we do this? I don’t know, I think maybe people would care if they knew about it but I haven’t seen a single mention of this on TV. I’ve watched hours of call in shows about “Do you think the Dixie Chicks have a right to say that?” But maybe “Is it okay to lock up children if they are Ay-rabs?” would be worth a debate too.
BUT BACK TO POSTJOURNALISM
Bill Maher said that it’s like they decided if they all threw out the rules of journalism at the same time it wouldn’t count. And that’s exactly what happened. If these people were journalists they would report the facts and not take sides. Not only did they try to fight the war alongside the military, they unquestionably adopted the obvious propaganda language of the military. If they work in news they probaly follow current events, and therefore they know that this war was supposed to be about stopping the theoretical weapons of mass destruction from falling in the hands of terrorists. The whole obliter… er I mean liberating the Iraqis business came completely out of left field. So when they call it “Operation Iraqi Freedom” this is an obvious piece of propaganda and not something that the real news chooses to make into a fancy logo and leave on the screen 24 hours a day. If it was called “Operation Vote For Bush in 2004” I wonder if they would’ve put that on the screen all day? Or “Operation Try the Burger King 99 Cent Value Meal.”
And if it was real news they wouldn’t call it “coalition forces.” What coalition? If the Americans and scattered token Brits called themselves “The Superfriends” or “The Awesome Team” I guarantee you that Fox News would go along with it. But the real news would call them US led forces at best.
All the Michael Jackson specials in the world could never top the insanity of cable news war coverage. The only people who win in a war are the wives of retired generals, because they get to stay home in peace and quiet and not have to hear about that shit anymore while their husband runs off to walk around on a giant map and trigger little animated explosions. They’re so excited to use their lingo and share their knowledge with other people who get a hardon thinking about war.
I think my least favorite of the anchors during combat was that Lester Holte dude on MSNBC who always had a half smile on his face even if he was talking about a kid getting his head blown off. One day I saw live coverage of some Iraqi official speaking at the UN about this being an illegal war – something most of the world agrees with. They cut back to Lester who smirked and said, “Obviously a moot point.” On the real news, the anchors don’t get to rebut.
I should know better but one day I watched a little Fox and I saw an anchor in the studio reporting on the peace movement, and how they are unorganized and violent and how their main concern now is the western influence on Iraq and for example if there is a KFC in Baghdad then Iraqis will get fat. The female anchor laughed at this and then the male shook his head in disgust. At no point was there a reference to a specific person or group that said this or believed this, or any vague indication of where this idea was channeled from, it was just this guy’s interpretation of what the half of this country and majority of this world that opposes invading Iraq supposedly believes. Now I honestly believe if this fucker pulled a Billy Madison and had to take a junior high journalism class, he would have no chance of passing. He doesn’t even know what journalism is. You can’t interview yourself as a representative of the people who disagree with yourself. Or can you? I guess this is the New Journalism or something. Postjournalism. Is our whole country high?
I ask that everyone start using the term “POSTJOURNALISM” to describe what they do on TV now. I would also like to suggest that people mail high school journalism text books, maybe with important parts highlighted, to specific postjournalists. It would also be good to organize high school journalism teachers or even the young editors of high school newspapers to go to the headquarters of these cable news channels and offer free tutoring.
That sounds like a joke but I honestly think it’s necessary. Every week they fall down another notch below what you already thought was the lowest possible notch. Like when Rumsfeld started mentioning Syria alot and right on cue they started doing shows about, “Who’s next? Syria?” Not outraged, but casual like, “Do you think Nicholson will get the Oscar, or Day-Lewis?” Four days earlier I bet you could’ve watched every cable news channel for 24 hours and never heard the word “Syria.” Suddenly Colin Powell says “we’re not going to invade Syria” and the main topic of discussion becomes the danger of Syria to our national security.
If Rumsfeld and Powell never talked about Syria, Americans would not care about Syria. They could go 20 years and never be affected by Syria or ever find out who their leader is or where they are on a map. But because they went the other route and talked about Syria they actually have nutballs believing that we MUST invade Syria. I honestly think we could invade Disneyland and Fox News viewers would be convinced we stopped a grave threat to our freedom.
There’s an experiment I think the networks should try. They should make up a fake country and report just for one afternoon that Rumsfeld and Powell say they are not going to invade. I guarantee you the next day people would be calling for fictional blood.
And by the way, did you notice how it’s still not about oil? Yeah the first combat death was securing an oil field, yeah the main accomplisment was securing the oil fields, yeah they’re mad at Syria for pumping oil. But that’s only because it’s not about oil.
Okay whatever dude, it’s not about oil. But still, you managed to secure the Ministry of Oil and leave every other government building to be trashed or burned. Well now it is going to be all about oil because that’s the only part of the government they got left.
Let’s set all the death and destruction aside and just look at the mess at the museum of antiquities. If that isn’t a symbol of everything that’s wrong with us I don’t know what is. That was a museum that had the first known written word in it! We’re talking things that are 7,000-10,000 years old. The museum had begged the Pentagon for weeks to secure it so it wouldn’t be looted like museums were in Afghanistan and in the first Gulf War. But then when the shit went down the kids in the Marines couldn’t do anything because they didn’t have orders. We secured the oil fields, we didn’t secure 10,000 years of civilization. Oh well what can you do man, war is hell right? Our bad. Whoops.
So the Taliban destroyed ancient Buddha statues because they were assholes. We did it because we couldn’t be bothered. It takes all kinds.
EVERYTHING IS ALL RIGHT AND WE ARE GREAT
I went to a baseball game the other day and I saw a group of college teens wearing red white and blue novelty top hats and jester hats. And I thought do you always wear that, or just during invasions? The same people who get out their flag pins and hats and sequined vests to wear not on an ordinary day, only on a day when our country is killing people in another country. That’s the day they choose to show their pride.
I don’t think it’s just that our country is divided politically, I think it is also a difference in personality or philosophy or something. It’s not so much that these people are republicans who agree with George Bush as that they want to believe that everything is all right and that we are great and that the whole world not only can suck our dick, but that it’s lining up begging to. This isn’t World War III, it’s World’s Biggest Gang Bang III. It’s alot easier to believe that than to face the ugly truth of forged documents, changing stories, a crowd of 2 million chanting “Death to America”, Iraqi kids throwing rocks at American soldiers every day when they patrol, husbands coming home not knowing they’ve been freedom fried by the depleted uranium they were asked to use on other human beings.
TAKE FOR EXAMPLE THE DIXIE CHICKS.
It’s easy to believe that there is a backlash against the Dixie Chicks because one of them once admitted that she was ashamed of George Bush. The story was that the singer made a casual comment against Bush onstage in London, the fans got pissed and the country radio stations had to stop playing their music. The reality though is that thanks to media ownership deregulation passed by Clinton, radio stations are rarely independent or locally owned and are all controlled by a small group of companies. The most notorious is of course Clear Channel, the one that banned all songs with airplane references or anti-war sentiments after 9-11, the one that organized pro-war rallies across the country by calling them “Support the Troops” rallies, and the one that had their stations stop playing the Dixie Chicks.
I can’t speak for fans of modern country music, because I understand them about as much as I understand a frog on a pogo stick, but I’m assuming they don’t go out and re-buy their favorite albums every week. So my guess would be that the drop in record sales for the Dixie Chicks was not from their fans, who by definition already have their album, but by the people who didn’t buy their album because they didn’t think about it because they didn’t hear it on the radio because it wasn’t being played on the radio because Clear Channel owns the radio. One corporate behemoth making a stupid decision is not the same as an uprising. That’s like if when Coca-Cola introduced New Coke the media painted it as a popular movement against the outdated flavor of Coke. Anyway, so now there’s this illusion of a Dixie Chicks backlash, and it’s a good gimmick so whatever idiots the country stations have as counterparts to the “morning zoo crew” get people riled up and next thing you know some innocent, confused kid in a henry porter t-shirt is on tv stepping on Dixie Chicks cds and going into the pre-teen chat room calling them “dixie sluts” because his mom said they were against war which in the bible it says thou is a whore if you shalt not kill. It’s a fraud man, it’s not real. I give country music the benefit of the doubt. I bet most people in country music are not really that stupid.
(But if I’m wrong, and this whole anti-Dixie Chicks business really does represent the consensus of country music, then let me finally join in with the vast majority of Americans who say FUCK COUNTRY MUSIC. Look, I don’t listen to your garbagey music, I don’t understand why anyone would, but I don’t participate in the bashing of it or of southern culture. I rarely if ever use words like redneck, hillbilly, backwoods, inbred, wifebeater, mouthbreather, cornpoon, trailer trash, white trash, Trent Lottesque, Deliverance, etc. I don’t believe in that classist stereotyping shit. But if you’re seriously going to back these fuckin yahoo hacks who come out with their flagwaving novelty songs everytime a war hits, funneling american emotions into their wallets with the exact same thoughtfulness and subtlety that the fictional characters of pro-wrestling do, and then you’re gonna turn around and crucify your most acclaimed and popular artists for briefly mentioning concern for human life, well then fuck you. Really, seriously, FUCK YOU and your pansy-ass phoney patriotism bullshit. I mean, you seriously LIKE that song where the guy is talking about how he “remembers 9-11” so he has no choice but to stick a boot up the ass of every arab country he can figure out the name of? I forget the asshole’s name but I do remember that THAT GUY IS A FUCKIN MORON. It is not physically possible to be more of an ass than that fucking guy.
When he gets his shit-smelling red white and blue boots back on his feet I’m gonna call up the Make a Wish Foundation and have them fly him to Kuwait to meet that kid Ali. Ali sadly is only the most famous of thousands of innocent victims of this war. If you haven’t heard of him, he’s the kid who lost his parents, his siblings, his arms and alot of his skin when an american “smart bomb” blew up his house. Then he had to sit in an impoverished Iraqi hospital for a week or two before the international media made enough of a storm that the american media would cover the story and the Pentagon would finally decide as a PR move to liberate this one kid to a real hospital in Kuwait. It will be interesting to see Mr. Boot Up Your Ass Because I Remember 9-11 talk to Ali. He’ll have to explain why Saudi Arabians who killed themselves in New York two years ago means that the American army had to go to Iraq and “stick a boot in his ass” by blowing off his arms and killing his entire family. GO USA!
It’s not like your music is real country music in the sense of Johnny Cash and friends anyway. You have about as much to do with country western as R. Kelly has to do with Motown.)
UPDATE: The Dixie Chicks now played a sold out show in the South to thunderous applause. Apparently they even set aside time for the audience to boo, and just got cheering. So it looks like my instinct was right.
WHY THE GOVERNMENT IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THAT CRAP THEY PLAY ON THE RADIO
And this brings me to the real problem we have here which is media consolidation. This one is going out to the teens and college youths out there because this is how I’m going to recruit you. Have you ever noticed how popular music sucks? Yes you have.
Well what if I was to tell you that Britney Spears, N’Sync, the Macarena, and whatever else the kids at school who you hate listen to, what if I was to tell you that they are the government’s fault? I never realized this until I saw the Bay Area hip hop radio dj Davey D speak recently. He is a guy who was fired for having an anti-war activist on his show during the attack on Afghanistan. He talked about how everywhere he went people would talk to him about their concerns about war and the loss of civil rights in our country but every time he turned on the radio all they would talk about is the feud between Nas and Jay-Z. On September 11th 2001 he was watching the World Trade Center fall on TV when an acquaintance called him from Manhattan. Hey Davey D, will you play my record on your radio show? Davey D said what are you doing calling me about a record when the towers just fell down? The guy says towers, what are you talking about? Turns out he had been listening to Hot 97 all morning and they hadn’t mentioned what was going on.
This isn’t just a matter of bland corporate radio trying to tenderize our souls and remove all thought or potential unplanned controversy. It’s a matter of some ponytailed morons in an office building in the midwest somewhere deciding what this guy should listen to in Manhattan. This really goes on, in fact Clear Channel has an office in Seattle and I’ve talked to people who have worked there, their job being to compile lists of the songs that will be played for various “formats.” These days those moron on air personalities you hear are not actually deciding what will be played, it is dictated from on high and pre-programmed.
So I already knew this for a fact but I was still amused when Davey D said he proved that to his friends by having them look up the playlists on web sites for urban stations around the world, when they discovered that every single one was playing the exact same group of songs. Since we were in Seattle Davey D pointed out that the brief “Seattle Sound” explosion which I am vaguely aware of which apparently happened in the early 90s, well that couldn’t have happened today because there is no localism. There is one college station that could have played Nirvana and friends but they don’t have the same reach as the “alternative rock” station that really helped bring them to a wider audience, which now follows a playlist from on high.
So now I’m telling you kids, and this is a fact, the way you get on MTV and the radio is you’re on a major record label who pays an independent promoter to bring your CD to the decision makers tied to a brick of cocaine. Because these people love cocaine, YOU have to listen to Christina Aguilera.
AND THAT’S ONLY THE BEGINNING. I mean, everyone agrees that the media is owned by too few companies. You’d have to be completely blind and deaf not to see that things have gotten ugly. But Colin Powell’s son Michael – who got to head the FCC completely on his own merits, same way Bush became president – actually thinks that the rules we have now are too harsh. On June 2nd, with very little public debate and virtually no mention on the TV news, he will hold the vote for a new set of rules that would allow the same corporations to own more radio stations, own a newspaper and news channel in the same city, etc. Because really what America is all about is less viewpoints.
Please people, write the shit out of your senators and congress people. They’re our last hope to stop this insanity if the FCC fuckers vote yes. First we gotta stop it from getting worse, then we’ll figure out how to make it better.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.