THE BLOG
01/10/2011 04:45 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Only a Pawn in Their Game

Spare me the shock. Violent talk inspires murderous rage. Tormented souls are precisely why such incendiary talk is so dangerous. And spare me the smarmy, unctuous statements from the John Boehners and Mitch McConnells and their claqueurs and their overseers. Their sandbox tough-talk and ersatz bravo have debased both public and private dialogue. I'm braced for the inevitable, nauseous wave of evasions ahead. "Who, me?" Yes, by all things sacred, YOU. We've gotten used to them; we treat them as entertainment; we've incorporated them into our culture. Shame on us. And a plague on them, or, more properly, on their sponsors.

So take a deep breath, yes. Grieve, yes. Rage, yes. But do not be diverted by a gunman in Arizona. There's a great deal more at stake here than the needless, pointless, outrageous deaths. That shooter in Tucson? After almost half a century, Bob Dylan's unflinching lyricism accounts for that poor soul: he's "only a pawn in their game."*

Don't accept violence and lies, distortions and gun-totin' lunatics as inevitable. Focus instead on individuals and corporations obscenely profiting when vitriol trumps democratic dialogue. What if we really did "follow the money"? Who's benefiting from the semi-demented discourse now passing for news, commentary and politics? Anyone who believes these demagogues will be shamed into truthfulness or will have some kind of epiphany has not been paying attention for the last five decades.

Each and every one of us is ideally positioned to use the one instrument of persuasion powerful enough to get the attention of the moneybags behind these windbags. And, yes, it's even more powerful than the barrel of a gun.

Boycott.

Refuse -- loudly -- to buy anything from ANY and ALL of Fox News' sponsors. Shun them. Don't like the filth reactionary radio is pumping out on OUR airwaves? Get a list** of their advertisers. Refuse to buy from the local, regional, national and international sponsors on that list. Make sure they hear about what you're doing. By all means, invite everyone you know to join you in reclaiming your public integrity.

Then turn off your television. It may take a moment to recognize the blessed silence that follows, but it holds surprising promise. There are genuine, responsible reporters out there. Be someone who questions sources. Tune out mainstream media. Too many of them are our society's real "ditto-heads." They routinely default to taking dictation from their money-masters.*** A few sources remain intent on being truth- rather than profit-driven. Seek them out and share them.

Push back against the Mitch McConnells whose sole purpose is obstructing our will. They want us to do as we're told and -- to use McConnell's word -- not be "Europeanized." What a bunch of McCarthyite garbage this is! It's been thrown in the faces of the vast majority of people in this country who are not in control of the levers of power, all the way back to the beginning of industrialization. Once again, we are all being victimized by toadies for rich people, intent on having their way with the rest of us whom they shamefully deem as fully disposable.

There are other solutions, too. Handgun control is so obvious it's embarrassing. The airwaves really do belong to the sovereign people -- REAL, flesh-and-blood people, NOT corporations. The Fairness Doctrine was far from perfect, but it was a whole lot better than decades of these unrelenting, one-sided, screeching lies. Why else would the wrong-wing fight so ferociously against something as worthy as being... fair?

Some years ago we had the opportunity to talk with Anthony Lewis about his book Freedom for the Thought That We Hate: A Biography of the First Amendment. The incendiary rhetoric now commonplace in our mass media is largely protected speech. If that disappoints you, remember that the blade cuts both ways.

The standard that emerged from the cited "New York Times Co. v. Sullivan" case requires proof that the defendant knew the statements were false or that the defendant acted in reckless disregard of their truth or falsity. While much of what passes for news, commentary and political discourse appears both false and reckless, the standards of proof are appropriately high. The history of civil rights in the United States would be radically different were the standards set lower. Most of us who publicly exercise our free speech rights are pleased not to be sued when we make statements with which others disagree.

HOWEVER, the fact that demagoguery may be protected speech does NOT mean that we have to listen to it or that we must pay for it or that we must support those who do.

The public outcry over the appalling events in Tucson will, alas, pass. The question is, what then? Are we going to simply enrich the securicrats?**** Further degrade ourselves with a stronger and stronger profit-driven security-state? Hire ever more guards, pack even more guns, put ourselves further in bondage to our fears?

Every dollar spent is a vote. Here's something we all can DO: act as responsible adults. Demand fairness and truthfulness in the public arena. Stop being nice to nasties. Be polite AND disagree. State your views and don't argue. Turn off your TV. Invest that time in reliable information sources, in you community and in your family.

Let the courts deal with the "pawn." Focus your attention on the sponsors and funders of "their game."

As Howard Beale should have said: I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna PAY for it anymore.

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* Lyrics are available at: http://www.bobdylan.com/#/songs/only-a-pawn-in-their-game

** While there are a number of websites which do excellent work in tracing the funding of various organizations and of political candidates, I have not yet been able to find one showing sponsorships of demagogic programming. If ANYONE knows of such a listing and/or website, I would be deeply grateful to know about it. Add it to the comments here or send me an email.
[By way of The Daily Beast via Daily Kos this link provides a partial list of products sold by Koch Industries. Still a long way to go in identifying all of funders of destruction.]

*** For a clear case study of how we're being constantly lied to by corporate America, manipulated by their "public relations" (read "propaganda"), a must-read is Wendell Potter's new book Deadly Spin.

**** Sinn Féin's Gerry Adams said to us in 2004: "One man's securicrat is another man's terrorist."