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Divided They Stand

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Political ideologies tend to divide us along generational lines.  As we age, we tend to become more conservative while youth trend towards more liberal ideals. As an Italian American I can attest that no holiday family gathering, especially over a sumptuous meal, was ever without lively political discourse.  Often at odds with my elders, I never lost respect for them or their values.  Our bonds remained strong throughout Viet Nam, Johnson, Nixon, My Lai, the many assassinations, Kent State, the equal rights amendment,  and Roe V. Wade, Reagan, Iran Contra, Ollie North, and the Bushes.  That’s some feat. But don’t for a moment think that it never reached the point where the gloves came off.

By Michael Caporale

I remember on one occasion during my college years, I returned home for Easter.  Over dinner, my aunt was ranting about “buckets of bloody babies” in the trash outside the abortion clinics in New York City.  Her inflammatory rhetoric stopped me cold and the prosecutor in me stepped forward.

“So you are against all abortion, no exceptions,  because it is a form of murder, a taking of a human life”

“Yes,” she answered.

“So imagine that your teenage daughter is walking through the park at night and is attacked and raped by a black man and becomes pregnant, would you get her an abortion?”

Her face became flush, “You’re goddam right I would.”

The trap was sprung. “You fucking hypocrite!” I yelled.

She promptly jumped up from the table, a seven course Easter feast, and fled crying to the rocker in the kitchen, followed by all the ladies offering comfort to her, chastising me on the way.

Passions are strong, but family bonds are stronger.  I love my aunt and she loves me still.

But today, in the age of Trump, the line that separates Trumpism from the rest of political ideology, liberal or conservative, is a divisional cliff, a chasm that If I had my way, I would push the Trumpites over into that bottomless pit of their own making, to be forever forgotten and move on.

So it is that I have never been able to reconcile how Kellyann Conway and her Husband George have survived their opposing political roles.

Kellyann has remained one of the staunchest, loyalist, rabid attack dogs in the Trump kennel, along with Jim Jordan, Devon Nunes and Matt Gaetz.  Known for her quick, rapid fire responses she talks over interviewers with digressions, diversions, deflections and what-about-isms, shifting blame and avoiding direct answers when needed, resorting to repeating Trump dogma, 100% lies. Her husband, George, founder of The Lincoln Project, a political action group of Republicans committed to Trump’s removal from office, is on the other hand a fervent anti-Trumper. Yesterday, each resigned their positions to focus on their family.  I wish them well, but I am oh-so-very-happy that I won’t have to watch another Kellyann Conway interview on the Whitehouse lawn, spilling over with meaningless, combative drivel supporting the warped personality of a well-documented ner-do-well.  I can respect her loyalty, but not her judgement.

Other couples have weathered their differences well, such as James Carville & Mary Matalin or Margaret Hoover & John Avlon.  All of these individuals are logical, reasonable people.  Although Carville can be a somewhat flamboyant personality, he nonetheless argues from a position of facts and is more often than not correct in his assessments.  Margaret Hoover is a conservative in the best sense of the word, and if anyone is capable of representing a purist conservative philosophy in such a way as to influence public opinion, it is she.  She’s smart, logical, reasonable, truthful  and calm.  She’s passionate in her beliefs, not rabid as most Trumpites, including Conway, are.  Avlon is a shining star, always beaming with happiness, finding the humor in the absurd.  Reflecting on a state of affairs that four years ago was unimaginable, he presents even the darkest news from the Trump camp with his ever warm countenance.  Admirable.

With political movements trying to divide us into opposing camps, it’s perhaps important to reflect on those forces and identify how each is perceived and the reality of their influence.  Largely they are referred to as the radical right and the radical left.

The radical right consists of groups like the KKK, Q Anon, and the American Nazi Party, catch-all categories like white supremacists and Christian fundamentalists, and the many individual racists, anti-semites, birthers, and whacko conspiracy theorists and less we forget, their cheerleader, Fox News.  They represent hateful political ideals and advocate the unequal application of the concept of freedom and do not support equality for all.  This is a large part of the president’s base.  He regularly acknowledges them in speeches and tweets.  The radical right has infiltrated the GOP to the extent that their bond with Trump has made it impossible for the remaining, true conservatives in the party to extricate themselves from its grip on Trumps’s untenable position of support and his subsequent vitriol.

The radical left are largely characterized as Socialists, but socialism does not embrace violence. Socialists do not loot.  Socialists are not arsonists.  Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and AOC have all been branded as socialists by their detractors.  They are all kind-hearted, ethical people of benign intent. Put simply, Socialism could easily be re-branded as “do-goodism.”  It’s portrayed by its detractors as the philosophy of a bunch of idealist dreamers, “goody-two-shoes,” harmless if left alone but dangerous if placed in leadership roles. It’s largely regarded that their positions on health care, education and the environment would put the nation into bankruptcy if enacted, when in reality their  policies would merely alter the disproportionate distribution of income tax, achieved through the unfair, unequal treatment of the 1% who attained their sovereign position instituted by virtue of Reagan’s “trickle-down” theory.  As Robert Reich demonstrated during the Clinton administration, a vibrant and healthy economy begins by supporting the middle class not the upper class. Just look at what happened to the stock market during his tenure. Middle class income rose and the deficit disappeared all before Clinton had his oval office fling.  The benefits reached every sector of our economy. How soon we forget.

 

 

 

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As the Golden Globes lose their luster, can we create a better version of Hollywood?

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Something interesting is happening in Hollywood. People are walking away from the Golden Globe Awards.

And for good reason.

Anyone who has ever worked in the filthy abyss of Hollywood, New York, or any major entertainment city will know first hand how these systems work. Sycophants, parasites and moguls and talent agents willing to step all over each other just for the sake of another prize. Some will even kill for a shot at the brass ring.  And industry divided cannot succeed.

The only good thing I found in the Golden Globes was watching Ricky Gervais lampoon the stars and their handlers from the stage. Bravo to Gervais, it doesn’t make a difference what you think of him, afterall, he had something that most of Hollywood doesn’t have. Balls. Guts. And a way of delivering amusing reality dosed insults to their face only to find he’s been re-instated as the show host for the next years showing.

 

The annual Golden Globes ceremony has been unable to find a broadcasting partner or any celebrities willing to present or collect its awards after a Hollywood boycott over its diversity and ethics scandal, resulting in a pared-down event with the emphasis on philanthropy.

According to Variety, the Globes’ talent bookers have failed to persuade any big Hollywood figures to attend the 2022 edition of the awards ceremony, a hitherto glittering annual event that traditionally kicked off the lucrative awards season. In March 2021 more than 100 public relations firms announced they would withdraw cooperation with the Globes, a series of high-profile Hollywood figures, including Tom Cruise and Scarlett Johansson, made stinging public criticisms, and TV network NBC cancelled its broadcast of the 2022 edition. (-The Guardian)

 
eguardian.com/film/2022/jan/09/golden-globes-lose-their-shine-as-a-listers-shun-unethical-ceremony

But this years showing not only lacked the luster of Hollywood today, but doesn’t even have a Network or Livestream to cover it.  I guess we’ll have to rely on celeb Twitter Feeds.

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How The Pentagon and CIA Have Shaped Thousands of Hollywood Movies into Super Effective Propaganda

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By David Swanson, World BEYOND War, January 5, 2022

Propaganda is most impactful when people don’t think it’s propaganda, and most decisive when it’s censorship you never knew happened.

 

When we imagine that the U.S. military only occasionally and slightly influences U.S. movies, we are extremely badly deceived. The actual impact is on thousands of movies made, and thousands of others never made. And television shows of every variety.

The military guests and celebrations of the U.S. military on game shows and cooking shows are no more spontaneous or civilian in origin than the ceremonies glorifying members of the U.S. military at professional sports games — ceremonies that have been paid for and choreographed by U.S. tax dollars and the U.S. military. The “entertainment” content carefully shaped by the “entertainment” offices of the Pentagon and the CIA doesn’t just insidiously prepare people to react differently to news about war and peace in the world. To a huge extent it substitutes a different reality for people who learn very little actual news about the world at all.

The U.S. military knows that few people watch boring and non-credible news programs, much less read boring and non-credible newspapers, but that great masses will eagerly watch long movies and TV shows without too much worrying about whether anything makes sense. We know that the Pentagon knows this, and what military officials scheme and plot as a result of knowing this, because of the work of relentless researchers making use of the Freedom of Information Act. These researchers have obtained many thousands of pages of memos, notes, and script re-writes. I don’t know whether they’ve put all of these documents online — I certainly hope they do and that they make the link widely available. I wish such a link were in giant font at the end of a fantastic new film. The film is called Theaters of War: How the Pentagon and CIA Took Hollywood. The Director, Editor, and Narrator is Roger Stahl. The Co-Producers are Matthew Alford, Tom Secker, Sebastian Kaempf. They’ve provided an important public service.

In the film we see copies of and hear quotations from and analysis of much of what has been uncovered, and learn that thousands of pages exist that nobody has yet seen because the military has refused to produce them. Film producers sign contracts with the U.S. military or CIA. They agree to “weave in key talking points.” While unknown quantities of this sort of thing remain unknown, we do know that nearly 3,000 films and many thousands of TV episodes have been given the Pentagon treatment, and many others have been handled by the CIA. In many film productions, the military effectively becomes a co-producer with veto power, in exchange for allowing the use of military bases, weapons, experts, and troops. The alternative is the denial of those things.

But the military is not as passive as this might suggest. It actively pitches new story ideas to movie and TV producers. It seeks out new ideas and new collaborators who might bring them to a theater or laptop near you. Act of Valor actually began life as a recruitment advertisement.

Of course, many movies are made without military assistance. Many of the best never wanted it. Many that wanted it and were denied, managed to get made anyway, sometimes at much greater expense without the U.S. tax dollars paying for the props. But a huge number of movies are made with the military. Sometimes the initial movie in a series is made with the military, and the remaining episodes voluntarily follow the military’s line. Practices are normalized. The military sees huge value in this work, including for recruitment purposes.

The alliance between the military and Hollywood is the main reason that we have lots of big blockbuster movies on certain topics and few if any on others. Studios have written scripts and hired top actors for movies on things like Iran-Contra that have never seen the light of day because of a Pentagon rejection. So, nobody watches Iran-Contra movies for fun the way they might watch a Watergate movie for fun. So, very few people have any notions about Iran-Contra.

But with the reality of what the U.S. military does being so awful, what, you might wonder, are the good topics that do get lots of movies made about them? A lot are fantasy or distortion. Black Hawk Down turned reality (and a book it was “based on”) on its head, as did Clear and Present Danger. Some, like Argo, hunt for small stories within large ones. Scripts explicitly tell audiences that it doesn’t matter who started a war for what, that the only thing that matters is the heroism of troops trying to survive or to rescue a soldier.

Yet, actual U.S. military veterans are often shut out and not consulted They often find movies rejected by the Pentagon as “unrealistic” to be very realistic, and those created with Pentagon collaboration to be highly unrealistic. Of course, a huge number of military-influenced films are made about the U.S. military fighting space aliens and magical creatures — not, clearly, because it’s believable but because it avoids reality. On the other hand, other military-influenced films shape people’s views of targeted nations and dehumanize the humans living in certain places.

Don’t Look Up is not mentioned in Theaters of War, and presumably had no military involvement (who knows?, certainly not the movie-watching public), yet it uses a standard military-culture idea (the need to blow up something coming from outerspace, which in reality the U.S. government would simply love to do and you could hardly stop them) as an analogy for the need to stop destroying the planet’s climate (which you cannot easily get the U.S. government to remotely consider) and not one reviewer notices that the film is an equally good or bad analogy for the need to stop building nuclear weapons — because U.S. culture has had that need effectively excised.

The military has written policies on what it approves and disapproves. It disapproves depictions of failures and crimes, which eliminates much of reality. It rejects films about veteran suicide, racism in the military, sexual harassment and assault in the military. But it pretends to refuse to collaborate on films because they’re not “realistic.”

Yet, if you watch enough of what is produced with military involvement you’ll imagine that using and surviving nuclear war is perfectly plausible. This goes back to the original Pentagon-Hollywood invention of myths about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and runs right up through military influence on The Day After, not to mention the transformation — paid for by people who throw a fit if their tax dollars help prevent someone freezing on the street — of Godzilla from a nuclear warning to the reverse. In the original script for the first Iron Man movie, the hero went up against the evil weapons dealers. The U.S. military rewrote it so that he was a heroic weapons dealer who explicitly argued for more military funding. Sequels stuck with that theme. The U.S. military advertised its weapons of choice in Hulk, Superman, Fast and Furious, and Transformers, the U.S. public effectively paying to push itself to support paying thousands of times more — for weapons it would otherwise have no interest in.

“Documentaries” on the Discovery, History, and National Geographic channels are military-made commercials for weapons. “Inside Combat Rescue” on National Geographic is recruitment propaganda. Captain Marvel exists to sell the Air Force to women. Actress Jennifer Garner has made recruitment ads to accompany movies she’s made that are themselves more effective recruitment ads. A movie called The Recruit was largely written by the head of the CIA’s entertainment office. Shows like NCIS push out the military’s line. But so do shows you wouldn’t expect: “reality” TV shows, game shows, talk shows (with endless reunifications of family members), cooking shows, competition shows, etc.

I’ve written before about how Eye in the Sky was openly and proudly both completely unrealistic nonsense and influenced by the U.S. military to shape people’s ideas about drone murders. A lot of people have some small idea of what goes on. But Theaters of War: How the Pentagon and CIA Took Hollywood helps us to grasp the scale of it. And once we’ve done that, we may gain some possible insights into why polling finds much of the world fearing the U.S. military as a threat to peace, but much of the U.S. public believing that U.S. wars benefit people who are grateful for them. We may begin to form some guesses as to how it is that people in the United States tolerate and even glorify endless mass-killing and destruction, support threatening to use or even using nuclear weapons, and suppose the U.S. to have major enemies out there threatening its “freedoms.” Viewers of Theaters of War may not all immediately react with “Holy shit! The world must think we’re lunatics!” But a few may ask themselves whether it’s possible that wars don’t look like they do in movies — and that would be a great start.

Theaters of War ends with a recommendation, that movies be required to disclose at the start any military or CIA collaboration. The film also notes that the United States has laws against propagandizing the U.S. public, which might make such a disclosure a confession of a crime. I would add that since 1976, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights has required that “Any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law.”

To learn more about this film, view it, or host a screening of it, go here.

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Editorials

The Grinch That Stole Christmas

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Back in the mid 70’s as my wife and I were starting our photography business Wally Miller, a successful local businessman, invited us to his office to offer help in the form of business advice. He asked only that we bring a financial statement and of course we complied.  The business startup process was new to us and after two years we were still losing money, and there it was in plain sight on the financial statement.  Wally welcomed us warmly and after a few minutes of careful study of our financials offered this observation, “You have no bad debts.”

Naturally I took this as a compliment.  I was proud that we had no bad debts, but that is not what Wally meant.  He elaborated, “If you have no bad debts that means that your credit is too tight and that translates into lost business.” His meaning was clear.  To be successful, really successful, you have to accept reasonable losses.  It’s the very nature of business.  If you want 100% certainty there can be no risk and without risk there can be no profits.

There’s a lesson in this thinking for Joe “McFuqwad” Manchin, the tight-ass, penny-pinching Grinch ruining Christmas for every American under the cover of “fiscal responsibility.”  His staffers gave us a look into his rationale, revealing two of the real reasons behind Joe’s decision to be the big NO.

Apparently Manchin believes that giving money to the poor in the form of a child tax credit is unwise because in his view, many will spend the extra dollars on drugs.  Likewise he is opposed to paid leave, stating that people will just call in sick and then go off deer hunting.

Now let’s all agree that in a free society, there are good and bad actors.  No law can legislate what is in the hearts of men.  No law can dictate integrity or honor.  If that were the case, there would be no GOP, no Jim Jordan, no Ted Cruz, no Matt Gaetz, No Marjorie Taylor Green, no Lauren Boebert. You get my drift, but I digress.

Once you agree to recognize that the actions of individuals are beyond your control, you must the adjust your decisions and subsequent actions to affect the greatest good for the majority.  Charity benefits the worthy and unworthy alike, without discrimination.  To withhold benefits from the worthy because there will always be unworthy recipients is to succumb to the devil’s play, a game of reduction that punishes all for the few.

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