30 November, 2006

Forced to turn off our brains.

The Clownification of America

By Stephen Pizzo, News for Real. Posted May 31, 2006.

"We've turned into this nation of overfed clowns, riding around in clown
cars, eating clown food, watching clown shows. We've become a nation of
cringing, craven fuckups." --James Howard Kunstler, author of "The Long

When I saw this Kunstler quote a couple of weeks ago, I thought it a bit
harsh. Then I picked up my morning paper -- and, all at once, I got it.
There, in 120-point bold headline type, above the fold, the lead story of
the day, was the "news" that:

In less than 24 hours, singer Taylor Hicks would battle singer Katharine
McPhee for the title of American Idol!

Clowns. We have indeed become a nation of frivolous, self-indulgent,
overweight, undereducated, unserious, clowns. When an event of such
monumental unimportance wins precious front-page status, what other
conclusion can be reached? Art has stopped imitating life and simply
become a substitute for it. I flashed back to the 1967 cult TV series "The
Prisoner," starring Patrick McGoohan -- a British spy kidnapped and
imprisoned on an island with an Orwellian-like society. Each morning
radios, newspapers and speakers announced it was "another wonderful day on
the island." Every day was another wonderful day. There never was a bad
day -- never mind that everyone on the island was a prisoner.And so it has
come to pass on our island, where the papers, radios and televisions no
longer differentiate between news and entertainment. Where "American Idol"
finals get page 1 treatment and genocide in Darfur is pushed deep inside
the paper in the shadow of a 1/2-page Best Buy ad trumpeting a sale on
iPod accessories.Oh, lighten up Pizzo! People need entertainment as much
as they need to know about all the bad news out there.

Yeah, fine. But let's keep the entertainment news in the entertainment
section of the paper where it belongs. Can we do that? Oh, and keep the
sports news on the sports page as well. The only time I want to see the
name "Barry Bonds," in the news section of the paper is if major league
baseball ever kicks his cheating ass out of the game. Or if he robs a
bank. Or if George Bush appoints Barry head of the FDA. Otherwise, keep
him and all other baseball-relating "news" where it belongs … in the
sports section.And, unless the losing singer on "American Idol" pulls a
gun and opens fire after hearing the verdict, everything else about that
show belongs in the entertainment section and NOT on my front page. The
same rules apply to everyone and anyone whose only claim to fame is that
they sing, dance, submerge themselves in a Plexiglas globe, eat the most
hot dogs in the shortest time or own a cute dog that fetches beer on
command.None of that is news. Not one word, factoid or photo-op of it is
news.It's not as if there was not real news the day "American Idol" found
its way onto my front page. During that same news cycle almost anything
that happened in Iraq was more important, as were the doings that day on
Capitol Hill, at the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department or in
Iran. On the day my paper put "American Idol" above the fold on the front
page, the editors could have thrown a dart at that list of the above
newsmakers and found a story more worthy of the front page.Who wins or
loses on "American Idol" may send a few thousand teenage girls squealing
off in tears, but that's about the extent of the damage. On the other
hand, we live in extraordinarily dangerous times. A convergence of
economic, geopolitical and environmental challenges confront the human
race … any one of which could tomorrow trigger a series of events that
would turn all our lives inside out.So, news editors everywhere, let's get
back to treating the front page as the sacred trust it is -- the place
reserved for the most important news we need to know that day in order to
exercise our responsibilities as citizens and members of the human
race.The mainstream media has become complicit in the "clownification" of
the American public. As more and more newspapers and broadcast entities
are gobbled up by a handful of giant media conglomerates, the news
business has become a circulation/ratings game. News people now cover
entertainers as though they are newsmakers. And, as if that's not bad
enough, news people themselves now become entertainers -- appearing on
Larry King Live and then interviewing one another. Newsmen become showmen
-- the news biz, show biz.Media companies feel they have to lure us in by
blending news and entertainment into a single tasty, calorie-filled but
nutrition-free product. Once hell-raisers, they are becomng
clownmakers.Aren't you embarrassed? Well damn it, you oughta be. Stephen
Pizzo is the author of numerous books, including "Inside Job: The Looting
of America's Savings and Loans," which was nominated for a Pulitzer.



American Idolized

Monday, 27 November 2006

by Frank Pitz

So, the Democrats won, Rummy quit, why am I not jumping for joy and
getting out here in cyberspace with more rah, rah postings?  Perhaps a
psychological impediment has grabbed hold; or could it just be plain old
skepticism?   But then again, it may just be a case of the blahs, caused
by the daily bombardment of “stuff.”

I’m generally “the glass is half full” kind of person, and meditate on a
semi-regular basis, which tends to help through most down
episodes.    But, sometimes you want to just chuck it all and scream,
“stop the world, I want to get off.”   Read a piece recently on AlterNet
titled “The Clownification of America” by Stephen Pizzo.  He wrapped an
article around that particular quote by James Howard Kunstler.  It summed
up for me-in a small way- just why I am feeling a bit of disquiet right

We’ve been American Idolized damn near to the point of no return.  It is,
after all, Orwell personified; up to and including the ubiquitous
electronic eyes and ears of Big Brother surrounding us completely.

As well, there is no identity anymore; we have lost that over these past
many years as we aimlessly search to co-opt another feel-good panacea
offered via the electronic airwaves or the “How to” genre to divorce us
from reality.

Americans want to be Native American, Buddhist, Hindi, Pagan, Celt, or
immerse themselves in the Kabbalah.  They wish to have “life coaches” to
help them make their way through it all.  What happened to common
sense?  You know, that old “All I ever needed to know I learned in
kindergarten” type thing.  Are we that disgusted with ourselves that we
have this overwhelming desire to find something (someone) else to be?  Is
there a national, collective guilt trip going on here?  Are we finally
horror-struck with ourselves for the global death and destruction always
being carried out in our name?   Do we all really need a daily dose of Dr.
Phil, Oprah, or for Christ’s sake – The View?  

We are the “bully on the playground,” and very few want to admit it – much
less talk about it.  Bush and company are committing the most horrendous
war crimes and genocide; and through it all some 50 million plus souls
call in a vote for their favorite idol.  For me, that’s depressing as
hell.  It makes one want to just reach out and smack the crap out of
someone.  Perhaps that is just what is called for; a huge collective smack
across the chops to see if possibly some sense could still be instilled in
the Amerikan psyche.  Somehow I quite doubt it, wishful thinking on my

The loss of intellect is but one small part of this Clownification of
America.   Being viewed as possessing intelligence and a streak of
individualism is to be scrutinized in this day and age of mass corporate,
political and media control.  To be an individual and think intelligently
(logically) is to bring oneself into the spotlight of the Department of
Homeland Security – the Defenders of the Fatherland, as it
were.  Individual thought runs counter to the dictates of the corporate
state and will get you thrown off a plane, or worse thrown in jail.

In no way do I consider myself to be an “intellectual” along the lines of
the great thinkers of this – or past  - ages.  I can’t be a Noam Chomsky,
or a Susan Sontag, Howard Zinn, or Cornell West much as I’d like to be at
times.  No, I’m just a logical, always searching, kind of human that likes
to believe I am a free thinker; of course Bush and Company despise all
free thinkers, regardless of their intellectual prowess.  

I read a great line attributed to Orson Scott Card: “Forced to turn off
our brains.”  For me, that says a hell of a lot, the vast majority of John
and Jane Q. (Amerikan) Public have done just that; turned off their
fucking brains.  How else to explain the fact that a nation of otherwise
(supposedly) intelligent human beings will allow themselves to submit to a
type of mass hysteria every time the fucking government, through the
corrupted media, issues a specific color code?  Isn’t that sort of, kind
of, nuts?  Crazy even?  We are creatures of our fashioned environment; an
atmosphere created whole cloth by plutocrats with the twin goals of greed
and control.  And we eat it the fuck up.  

It’s really challenging for me to try and follow that concept, I can think
of no close, familiar, or personal precedents that I can wrap my brain
around.  There are a few that come close; the military, which is
automatically set up to control and instill the model of group think and
blind allegiance to orders.  But that doesn’t really explain (for me) why
the Amerikan public is where they are at today, blind, unquestioning,
submission; despite the fact that most of what they are being asked to do,
or believe, flies in the face of reality, or logic. 

I suppose it really is easy to brainwash an entire country.  History tells
me that people have blindly followed dictators, despots and Presidents
through the ages, but history also tells me that eventually (in most
cases) the people finally woke the hell up.  Will the Amerikan public
ultimately wake up?  I’m entering my 70th year traversing this Universe, I
sure as hell would like to live long enough to see that awakening, and my
optimism is draining fast.   And no, I’m not just another “keyboard
warrior,” I’ve been knocked around plenty over the years by the enforcers
of this police state we live in, no doubt will be knocked around some more
before it’s all over.  But, that isn’t the point; the point is that many
more millions of us need to be knocked around before we can make a change
for the better.  We cannot keep on being dictated to and walking this
hateful edge that is being made up for us daily.  We’ve become a nation of
haters, brainwashed into this all-consuming hatred by those who would
control us. 

Had a phone conversation with a good friend (JP) the other day and we
talked about hate and just how much it permeates the day-to-day dialogue
in this country.  The media – parroting the Bush Administration – is
particularly fond of keeping the hate thing on the front burner, vis-à-vis
“why do they hate us?”  The media also “stir the pot” in other insidious
ways – and we are all familiar with those.  We hate the immigrants, we
hate the gays, we hate blacks, anyone who thinks or acts differently than
we do.   Most of us recognize it as a stupid, rhetorical, redundant tool,
no more than just another weapon used to keep the “fear factor” at
elevated levels and because of that we also hate ourselves; enough to turn
off our brains.  Or, as Howard Zinn states it: “Hysteria cripples

All one need do is take a look at the dialogue engendered in the various
chat rooms, blogs and comment sections on this big Internet community out
here, it may start out as civilized discourse but then, it always seems to
degenerate into vitriolic name calling.  None of us are immune from that;
we all tend to gravitate that way even in some small fashion, I know I am
guilty of it as well. 

All one needs do is look at our history.  We hated the Indian, the
Chinese, the Italians, the Irish, the Japanese, the Germans, the
Spaniards, the Phillipinos and the Vietnamese ad infinitium.  When you
think about it we pretty much have enclosed ourselves in a xenophobic
bubble here.   Just think about that very popular phrase of a few
generations back, “free, white and 21.”  That pretty much sums it up,
don’t you think?  We’ve always been a racist nation, made up of the many
individual (and corporate) racists amongst us. 

We’ve always been the bully on the playground; it’s ingrained in our
psyche.  Part of that is because we have always been able to back up our
truculent demeanor by force and that power has generally flowed
unobstructed.  I believe the Vietnam War altered that unhindered flow of
U.S. power; the bully’s Achilles’ heel was exposed and it was global
opposition that exposed it.  Of course, the right wing would have us
believe that Vietnam was lost because of a bunch of liberal, godless
appeasers parading in the streets. 

Since Vietnam we’ve had to buck up our self-esteem, pick up the guns and
run amok on the playground beating up on the smaller guys.  A sort of give
the folks something to feel good about scenario, never mind that we are
beating up on defenseless people here, using the media we’ll make it all
right.  And now we are in Iraq and Afghanistan, killing men, women and
children with impunity, no one wants to stand up to the bully of the
playground and he runs unimpeded.  One wonders, for how long?

If one looks at US interventions – either overt or covert - in sovereign
countries, just since the end of WWII we have used millions of tons of
bombs and bullets and have killed – or caused to “be disappeared” –
millions of people; that’s known as Genocide folks.  Since the first Iraq
venture by the US and subsequent sanctions, up to and including the
present crimes against humanity now happening, we have murdered over a
million men, women and children.  That’s known as “ethnic cleansing”
folks.   Are our leaders any different than those leaders who stood for
trial at Nuremberg?   Is ex-Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld any different
than Adolph Eichmann?   Is Bush any different than Hitler?  I think not. 

And if we dared pay attention to our history we would know that for a
couple of hundred years we have been – in addition to the bully on the
playground – the murderer of the world.  The tried and true comeback: “But
others have murdered also,” as if this qualification somehow excuses our
terrorism.  It’s no more than the old childhood wail; “Johnny was in the
cookie jar too.”   As my mother was fond of rebuking whenever I rolled out
that excuse, “If Johnny jumped off the bridge, I guess you would also?”

I don’t know if that can sum up our foreign policy or not, somehow we all
know that it is more a case of getting in first and taking what we want,
rather than following anyone else.  After all, the bully of the playground
always wants to be “first in line,” and will use whatever means – or
excuses – to get there.  Making the world safe for democracy is, of
course, the current phrase (excuse) de rigueur used to justify terror and
genocide.  If you understand history, if you read, know, history, you
realize in your soul that we murder with impunity, for the twin gods of
control and greed. 

Control and greed, the omnipresent nocturnal emissions that guide the
plutocracy.  Thinking with their penis – not for sex – as they rampage the
Universe while bowing at the phallic altar of ravenousness.

Isn’t it time to wake up Amerika?  How about slapping yourself in the
face, or taking a cold shower?  Or, perhaps, visit your nearest orthopedic
surgeon and have a backbone inserted, they do wonders with transplants
these days.

Take care out there.



Orson Scott Card is the author of the novels Ender's Game, Ender's Shadow,
and Speaker for the Dead, which are widely read by adults and younger
readers, and are increasingly used in schools.

Besides these and other science fiction novels, Card writes contemporary
fantasy (Magic Street, Enchantment, Lost Boys), biblical novels (Stone
Tables, Rachel and Leah), the American frontier fantasy series The Tales
of Alvin Maker (beginning with Seventh Son), poetry (An Open Book), and
many plays and scripts.

Card was born in Washington and grew up in California, Arizona, and Utah.
He served a mission for the LDS Church in Brazil in the early 1970s.
Besides his writing, he teaches occasional classes and workshops and
directs plays. He recently began a longterm position as a professor of
writing and literature at Southern Virginia University.

Card currently lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife,
Kristine Allen Card, and their youngest child, Zina Margaret.


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posted by u2r2h at Thursday, November 30, 2006


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