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The Lunatic Fringe

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As the social movements of the mid-sixties swept into the mid-seventies, a pervasive anti-establishmentism rooted in  the peace movement, fueled by the continuing war in Viet Nam, the Nixon administration and a generalized distrust of politicians was amplified by the Watergate revelations.  Music, rock and roll music, had transformed itself from silly little love songs to become the unifying force for a counter-culture of protest, validating the very idea of anti-establishmentism.  

All across this nation, FM radio stations like WEBN in Cincinnati brandished their freak flags high. The station’s manager, Bo Wood, fully aware of the new direction that rock music embraced, carefully crafted the station’s branding, identifying itself and its listeners as “the Lunatic Fringe.”  By joyously embracing this moniker in good jest, a non-conformist, anti-establishment youth movement that was catalyzed by protest music had found a welcoming home in modern radio.  Reinforcing this trend, the station dived deeper, employing Jerry Springer, a more sane version of his later self, as an incisive political commentator.  The battle lines were drawn.

Far and wide, FM stations emulated EBN’s template.  The evolving movement retained its identity as the lunatic fringe to become a deep rooted norm.  In an effort to compete in this new politicized arena, AM stations birthed “Talk Radio” a right wing product, as a different form of anti-establishmentism, creating a fertile environment for participation by call-in-crackpot conspiracy theorists, setting the stage for a more efficient mutation, Twitter, to follow in later years.  

No cousin of the original movement, it was seeped in the truly lunatic fringe, mindless political Zombies, lovingly adopted by religious zealots and the Republican party who began “bringing in the sheaves” like carnival barkers and snake oil salesmen, with Sunday TV evangelists and radio personalities such as Alex Jones, a true lunatic, or convicted criminal G. Gordon Liddy, but most notably typified by shining star, Rush Limbaugh.

This was something their predecessors, brothers in mind control, intrinsically understood, people like Jim Jones, David Koresh and yes, even Charlie Manson. In short order, mainstream corporate media, notably Fox “news” cashed in their immoral lottery tickets with personalities like Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Bill O’Reilly, Jeanine Pirro, Laura Ingraham, Geraldo Rivera and Lou Dobbs, among what is a seemingly endless parade of anchors and hosts willing to cater to the lowest common denominator in a ratings war for dollars devised by Roger Ailes to enrich his benefactor, Rupert Murdoch.

And thus, the truly lunatic fringe had become the established vehicle for the dissemination of conspiracy theories, a recipe best typified by Hunter Thompson’s phrase as “fear and loathing.” For a better understanding and an inside look at the machinations of the lunatic fringe, I suggest reading Matt Taibbi’s “The Great Derangement.”

But the term “conspiracy theory” did not enter the public vernacular until after a stream of assassinations that began in 1963 with the murder of JFK by forces unknown.  The implausible explanation provided by the Warren Commission in the 19,200 pages of its massive 27 volume report did more to obfuscate than explain who killed John Kennedy. Followed in short order by the deaths of Malcolm X in 1965, Martin Luther King in April 1968 and RFK in June of that same year, a reasonable person would have to conclude that the explanations provided the public were hopelessly inadequate and that the eradication of a movement’s most prominent leaders seemed more like linked, orchestrated events than isolated incidents by craven madmen.  The Left had been effectively castrated.

It was a time when disinformation was the domain of intelligence agencies like the CIA and Army Psy-ops, and propaganda was perpetuated by governmental entities through established mainstream media.  The art of disinformation had as its cornerstone the concept of plausible deniability while propaganda just had to be plausible to be effective. The common denominator was an amoral ethic that embraced lying for “the common good” to maintain order.  The CIA’s record of assassinations of foreign world leaders who opposed American interests was by then well known, but their charter did not permit such activity within the borders of the United States.  The common man understood in the most basic terms that their involvement, if any, would have to have been through a “cutout,” a “fall guy”  best suited as a communist, a foreign terrorist or a madman– a hated zealot who could suffer the focus of an angry nation and thus achieve unity in solace.

Lacking credible investigative results, private individuals took it upon themselves to author valid research into these events causing many other layers of reactionary obfuscation to be added by disinformation authors, piling on to perpetuate the sham and give the very term “conspiracy theorists” a bad name. 

And so here we are today, a pattern has been established as an effective tactic, the creation of chaos, a flood of conflicting stories devised to create doubts resulting in a gridlock of inaction. Your best reasoning tells you that it may walk like a duck and quack like a duck, but before you reach a conclusion that it is a duck, you must consider this, this and that, and prove it to be so, withstanding a legal standard of juried reasonable doubt.  Maybe it’s really a platypus? BOOM! And there you are, defeated. But be certain, it was a duck all along.

Chaos is an effective first step in the process of brainwashing—sever the ties to the known reality in order to ready the void for fresh input.  But in the parallel universe of a Machiavellian contract negotiator, chaos is employed as a tool for softening the opponent for the kill.  Take one position and then another, change from day to day, hour by hour, and it is impossible to know just what your position is or will be, and therefore, it becomes impossible to oppose, as no one course can stand against all comers.  Frustration leads to capitulation and winning.   The lesson is obvious.  The creation of chaos, call it divide and conquer, call it what you will, is the tool of a winner.

But trust is a wonderful thing, and while it has been difficult to suffer the past four years in the chaos whipped up by a charlatan billionaire, whose sole qualification for Presidential consideration was his ability to cut deals by using chaos as a negotiating tactic, a concept not fully understood at the time, democracy has won out.  Our faith in our system, tested as it was, was justified and we prevailed.   On January 20th the evil among us will be exorcised and only one thing remains to be fulfilled.  Lock him up!

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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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