Northern Valley Beacon

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Sunday, December 25, 2005


Merry Christmas, sort of.

Peace on earth, good will toward men?

Yeah. Right.

We proved the speciousness of wishes of peace when we contrived a war on falsehoods and blithely sent people to their deaths in an Orwellian war and a Big Brother campaign of terror by character assassination against any who dared cast doubt about that war.

The election campaign of 2004 dispatched any pretenses of a culture operating on good will.

Actually, the mastery of mass operant conditioning, of which the war on Iraq is an Orwellian tool, emerged in the campaign of 2000. The cliche directed at us whose moral and intellectual values have been dismissed by the election of 2004 is: you lost the election; get over it.

That cliche misses the point. We did not lose an election. We lost the integrity of our democracy in a campaign based upon character assassination, contrived falsehoods, and an agenda that attacks people who hold progressive political beliefs. The agenda is carried out through tactics and propaganda strategies that are compatible only with the most vicious and oppressive political movements, not with our democracy. Anyone who passed a course in college freshmen rhetoric understands the implications of the politcal campaigns of the 21st century.

We live at a time when ill will has displaced good will. This year "Merry Christmas" is more ominous and insidious than it is cheering and hopeful.

When people defame, insult, and abuse on a daily basis, their utterances pretending to good will are just more insult. Instead of practicing two minutes of hate as in Orwell's 1984, the ultra-regressives seem to think that shamming a few moments of good will expiate the moral destruction they have brought to American politics.

Many people in the U.S. think the cure for the malignancy that possesses America is to examine it and lay it out for what it is. Perhaps something positive and constructive can be done.

A major project in gathering and analyzing what kind of rhetoric and communications the political campaign of 2004 brought to the upper Midwest is ending its first phase. The gathering, organizing, and classification of materials is complete, and the data will now be made available to other researchers and scholars for examination and critical study.

The Press Project has issued a summary of what it has assembled. It examines what a generally bad job the electronic media does in covering politics. While the national media concentrates on material freighted with conflict and scandal in the belief that is what attracts viewers and listeners, the regional broadcast media are often hobbled by incompetence and openly partisan editing.

Newspapers are in a similar state. The Project report makes the point that the newspaper business is not really much different from the partisan newspapers that conducted vicious, libelous attacks during the early days of our republic. A few nationally circulated newspapers, so detested as the MSM by the ultra-regressives, do present balanced and verified coverage. The Orwellian ministry of propaganda and secrecy of the Bush administration has been exposed, and Bush and friends have vilified them for it. But on the local and regional levels, there are plenty of newspapers that fall into line with the regressive rationalizations for the war on Iraq, the continuing devastation of Katrina, the paring away of civil rights and Constitutional liberties, and the utter subservience to the corporate lust for money, power, and sometimes blood. And they are absolutely silent about the industrial and technological jobs lost in the U.S. and replaced by low-paying service jobs and about people accepting stiff wage cuts to remain employed. Employment statistics look good on the surface but under analysis, they show a declining economy. And the newspapers say little about the number of people who have lost their pensions.

We are indeed in a culture war. Ultimately, all wars are culture wars. In the current war, ill will and suppression have had unusual successes.

The Press Project took a look at discussion boards and web logs for what they signify. Most respectable newspapers have quietly abandoned discussion boards. They are the antithesis of what journalism is about. They purvey false information and are dominated by the malevolent gibberish of trolls.

Web logs have been a puzzle for the Press Project. Some are consistently well researched and well written. Others are devoted to constant personal attack and the propagation of malice. The main problem with web logs is that they are so terribly time-consuming. The Press Project researchers see a puzzle in the fact that newspapers are in decline, but what they do is something serious people want more of: the careful and comprehensive presentation of news and incisive analysis and commentary.

Actually, it is the progressives who, according to some Press Project polling, want more information and better written analysis. They want more of what the Main Stream Media does well. The regressives want party-line cant. This is one of the battles in the culture war.

It has been a bleak time for progressives, as their most dire speculations about where the country is headed have come true. So, how does one say Merry Christmas without sounding like a smarmy idiot?

One says it in the context of the hope that Christmas expresses. When one wishes a Merry Christmas, one is not proselytizing for Christianity, but wishing on others the peace and good will to which the well-wishers aspire. And then one works to make it happen.

We stop contributing to enterprises without integrity and moral competence and expend our energies and talents on the uplifting, not the down-tearing. We have stopped writing columns for the dreadful local newspaper and are contributing to publications with loftier aims. We support educational institutions that conduct themselves as befits higher academic purpose. Often mediocre and uninspired students need the atmosphere of the Grinnell College, the University of Iowa, and Augustana College to be brought to a full realization of what higher education means. We find ways for those institutions to expand their embrace and we look for opportunities for students to experience that embrace.

As for blogging, we are becoming convinced, once again, that more uplifting enterprises are needed and we should support them. We'll see.

It is very difficult to put on a merry facade when peace recedes further and further away as a human aspiration. It is hard to celebrate Christmas when the devotees and apologists of ill will appropriate it for their propaganda schemes. But one can celebrate the light that Christ brought to the world even if the world is trying its damndest to extinguish it. Keeping that light shining is the biggest battle in the culture war.

Merry Christmas.

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