Archive for the ‘Civil Liberties’ category

09.04.17 I’m 98% anti antifa

September 4, 2017

I almost giggled the first few times I heard that right-wingers were using terms like “extremist left” and “alt-left.” Of course, it wasn’t just the people every progressive could identify as right wingers doing this. Rather it was the New York Times and The Washington Post showing how not in thrall to the left they were. In pursuit of mainstream credibility, they were shy about refusing a platform to the GOPs anti-science freaks and pushed a general narrative of (false) equivalence: if the right was increasingly extreme, then surely the left was equally so.

All the while, anyone who paid attention knew that the lest vestiges of a violent left disappeared from the US in early ’70s.

I have my own extremist conspiracy theories and violent fantasies. I believed in the aughts (and still suspect) that if the corporate elite suspected elections might actually reform the system, elections would be canceled and tanks would roll in the streets. Obama’s election certainly didn’t disprove this: after all, Obama proved himself to be the ultimate Wall Streeter at the same time that he was among the worst civil liberties presidents in history (particularly in his full backing for the NSA).

I do think that armed revolution is probably the only way our political and economic systems could be pried completely from the grips of the selfish wealthy and their amen corner in hard-right churches across the country. Further, I think the “low information” nature of the United States is at least partly due to purposeful conspiracy on the right: the use of consumer baubles, cultural icons, and religion to create a dumbed down education system with TV as the opiate (now add opioids to that mix).

Yeah, 2% of me wants that armed revolution and would like to see all the corporate elite begging for food, while (by-then-former) GOP officials swing from trees.

But here’s a fundamental reason why I don’t embrace violence and revolution: what comes next?

This is the same reason why I have turned against the philosophically justified “responsibility to protect,” the international doctrine under which great powers like the United States have a duty to intervene to stop moral atrocities around the world. A quick survey of US international interventions – even those with some portion of noble intent – reveals that almost every single one has left things worse than they were before we got there. It is horrific to stand back while Assad and Putin slaughter millions. But if the US were to send in the Marines, would the bloodletting cease or would who is doing the slaughtering simply change for a time, with no reduction in carnage? And if we took the place over, how long would before our main purpose there became enriching General Dynamics and Apple?

So, you say you want a revolution (the classic Beatles song is going through my head)? It would be nice to see the bad guys dead or deposed. But do you really think the poor, women, and people of color would end up better off? At a very basic level, what if all the violence shut down those nasty coporations, which – until now – have been getting food from farms to tables all over the country and kept the water running? (Look at Venezuela! Yes, some poor are better off then under the oligarchs, but now there’s starvation on every corner and the health care system has collapsed.)

Or to get even more basic: When systems of order collapse, the power of the powerful becomes absolute.  I’m not a woman, but if I were, I might rather be out and about where there are imperfect institutions of order – even ones that abuse equal rights every day – than if the local strongman got to determine by himself whether I became his sex slave or made it home.

I hate unfettered capitalism. I hate institutionalized racism. I hate the Trump Regime. But, to replace them, there has to be a plan to replace them. There needs to be very careful thinking about the proverbial “day after” and it damn well better be better than the day before. Will there be a way to measure who has benefitted from violent overthrow and how the overall balance works out (in order to calculate whether the greatest possible good has been achieved for the greatest number of people)?

It may not be satisfying, but change within our deeply flawed system is the only means to try to help those who need it most to get at least something. Destroying the entire system at once means blood in the streets. Are you positive whose blood it will be?

As I have written, I believe the only chance to stop our current slide into fascism and dysfunctionality will be by electing folks who believe in democracy and will replace those who don’t. And it won’t – in our two-party system – be the Greens who get elected. It will be Democrats. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they are our only path to progress, however unsatisfying the pace may be.

In this complex world, we don’t get to choose exactly what we want. The unjust system might be overthrown and replaced by something even less just. I might elect Democrats and they might disgust me. But if the result they produce is less bad than that produced by the GOP, it is good.

And now it appears the violent left has sprung back to life. The Antifa’s black-hooded, club-wielding, anti-free-speech goons aren’t going to launch or “win” a revolution. What they are already doing is grabbing headlines from the Nazis, the KKK, and the racist GOP. Since Charlottesville, the word “antifa” is suddenly everywhere (are there now more mentions of it than there are of Confederate statues?). So far, the newspapers of record that are reporting breathlessly on the phenomenon are reminding us in some of this coverage that the crimes of the right are far worse. Who thinks that Fox and the Wall Street Journal are being so careful? And how long until the Times and the Post re-embrace false equivalence in all its glory, by sowing fear of the left to match fear of the right?

The Antifa is discrediting Bernie progressives and moderate liberals at the same time. Two-thousand-eighteen is around the corner. The forces of reaction are already making the TV ads that will capture the hearts of low-information voters everywhere.  You can bet those ads will be full of Berkeley fires and DC property damage. If the left draws a single drop of blood these coming months, it will be smeared across the living rooms of the nation. You will see the face of some moderate Democratic senator morph into that of a communist hoodlum and that Democrat could lose because if it, keeping Congress in GOP hands.

Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi proved the value and moral rightness of nonviolence. In the current US political environment, though, violence on the left is not only morally condemnable, it is just plain STUPID.

Progressives and the “liberals” they dislike so much need to stand up together NOW to denounce the Antifa. Like me, you may at times silently cheer the injuries inflicted on those who so richly deserve it. But what we must do publicly is to develop Democratic candidates and bench strength (including some Dems we don’t much love) and win some goddam elections. It may be mildly nauseating to join hands with Nancy Pelosi to condemn the (left) mob, but it’s what we have to do.

I am scared, though, that the Antifa cannot be crushed and holds too much righteous anger to collapse on its own. If that is true, woe unto us, for now we face enemies on both sides.

©2017 Keith Berner

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08.12.17 Chris Van Hollen: thy name is political cowardice

August 12, 2017

Sorry, Dear Reader, but I’m not about to let go of my outrage over Ben Cardin’s bill to criminalize free speech (S.270).

I have now written three times to Senator Van Hollen via his official campaign website. I have now written three times to his foreign affairs legislative assistant, Afreen Akhter. I have not received a single reply; though I was cc-ed on a reply Ms. Akhter sent to someone else:

Senator Van Hollen has not co-sponsored this legislation. He does not support restrictions on free speech and is reviewing the legislation in light of those concerns.

And here is what I sent to her today:

Ms. Akhter:

During the Reagan years, Act Up responded to the administration’s inaction on AIDS with this slogan: “Silence = Death.”

S.720 is not a matter of life or death, but Chris Van Hollen’s silence regarding our fundamental civil liberties is tantamount to endorsing Ben Cardin’s bill. I played a key role in helping Chris get elected to Congress the first time, something he thanked me for thereafter. I did not work for his election so that I could hear “has not co-sponsored this legislation” as an excuse for silence — this is political cowardice at its worst.

Will you present my views to the Senator? Will he stand up for he First Amendment and explicitly oppose S.270?

I would appreciate the courtesy of a direct reply.

— Keith Berner

Please stand with me in persistent support for civil liberties: please let Van Hollen and the rest of the Maryland congressional delegation* know how you feel.

*These Democrats are shameful cosponsors of Cardin’s pernicious bill:

  • Anthony Brown (MD-4)
  • John Delaney (MD-6), who is now running for president in 2020 (suppress giggles here)
  • Steny Hoyer (MD-5)
  • Dutch Ruppersberger (MD-2)
  • John Sarbanes (MD-3)

©2017 Keith Berner

08.03.17 Ben Cardin: still wrong; Chris Van Hollen: still silent

August 3, 2017

Per my post a few days ago, I wrote to Senator Ben Cardin (MD) in opposition to his bill criminalizing political speech he disagrees with. I heard back from his office today. Here is his note (my reply appears below that):

Thank you for sharing your comments on the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, S. 720. I appreciate your engagement regarding this piece of legislation, particularly your concerns over its potential impact on your constitutionally-protected First Amendment rights.

I understand that the American Civil Liberties Union released a letter that may have caused your, and other Marylanders’ concerns over the impact of S. 720 on civil liberties. I want you to know that I would not support legislation that would infringe upon those freedoms, and I welcome the opportunity to engage with you regarding some of the misunderstandings about the bill.

S. 720 seeks to amend the Export Administration Act (EAA), a 40-year-old law that prohibits U.S. persons from complying with unsanctioned foreign boycotts imposed by foreign countries. The prohibitions of the EAA have been consistently upheld as constitutionally sound. The new legislation amends the EAA to extend its existing prohibitions to unsanctioned foreign boycotts imposed by international governmental organizations, such as United Nations agencies or the European Union.

I want to highlight that this bill does not limit the rights of American citizens or organizations to express their views on Israeli or American foreign policy; nor does it limit the rights of American citizens or businesses from engaging in boycott activity of their own accord. I hope you will read my response to the ACLU, which is attached with this letter for your review. As I state in that letter and repeat to you now in this correspondence, I welcome healthy dialogue with constituents regarding the purpose and importance of this legislation, and I sincerely hope that this letter has addressed your concerns.

Thank you again for reaching out to me to share your thoughts on S. 720. Please do not hesitate to follow up with me should you have any additional questions or concerns regarding this bill, or any other matter of importance to you.

My reply:

Your assurances re my free-speech rights are empty until/unless I see further advice from the ACLU on this matter. The fact is that you once before prominently demonstrated your prioritization of Likud’s interests over US interests, when you opposed the Iran nuclear deal two years ago. You burned your credibility on matters touching on Israel at that time.

I will oppose your reelection and will continue to engage with Chris Van Hollen, Jamie Raskin, and other elected officials to defeat completely your misguided attempt to legislate your personal views on Israel and speech.

PS. I am Jewish and see you as a clear threat not only to my American civil liberties, but also to my ability to separate my ethnic identity from the horrific policies of the Israeli state.

In other news, Chris Van Hollen’s office still has no position to report, but this time his staff did give me the direct email address of his foreign affairs legislative assistant – please join me in writing to her: afreen_akhter@vanhollen.senate.gov.

I spoke again with Jamie Raskin today and he confirmed his opposition to S.270 and that he would produce a public statement on it before Congress returns from recess in September.

Finally, in a move that shows the lie in Ben Cardin’s email today, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) has withdrawn her cosponsorship of Cardin’s bill due to the ACLU’s analysis.

©2018 Keith Berner

07.31.17 Democrats seek to criminalize free speech (with friends like Ben Cardin, who needs enemies?)

July 31, 2017

Maryland Senator Ben Cardin introduced S.270, the “Israel Anti-Boycott Act” on March 23. It attracted little attention until the past couple of weeks.

This blog post is not about where you or I might stand on Israel. I have written plenty on that topic, including how Jewish-American politicians contribute to anti-Semitism through their support for the country.

Rather, I’m writing about free speech, a right enshrined in the First Amendment and a fundamental underpinning of US democracy (indeed of democracy itself). That is the issue at hand here: S.270’s purpose is to criminalize (with shockingly severe penalties) my right to hold political opinions that the bill’s many sponsors happen to disagree with.

As I wrote to Rep. Jamie Raskin (MD-8) last week:

Principled opposition to this bill is something quite apart from one’s particular views on Israel.  If you believe in civil liberties, you support them. Our fundamental freedoms should never be sacrificed to the interests of another country (any other country). Once that principle is agreed to, you can have whatever debate you need to about Israel.

Just in case you’re a fan of the ACLU, here’s what they have to say about this pernicious bill: How the Israel Anti-Boycott Act Threatens First Amendment Rights.

Take another look now at the S.270 link and that of HR.1697, the House’s equivalent. There are 46 cosponsors in the Senate and 249 in the house. That is, half of our elected officials are ready to toss aside the First Amendment because they think servitude to Likud and settlers is worth it.

We have become sadly accustomed to GOP assaults on democracy, particularly in the form of voter suppression, but not to exclude theft of Supreme Court appointments and more. But note this: 14 of those cosponsors in the Senate and 71 of them in the House are Democrats, including such “liberal” luminaries as Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand* (NY), Ron Wyden (OR), and Maria Cantwell (WA).

It gets worse, Maryland voters, as our own Hall of Shame is well populated. Apart from Cardin, here they are:

  • Anthony Brown (MD-4)
  • John Delaney (MD-6), who is now running for president in 2020 (suppress giggles here)
  • Steny Hoyer (MD-5)
  • Dutch Ruppersberger (MD-2)
  • John Sarbanes (MD-3)

Out of Maryland’s seven Democratic members of the House, only Elijah Cummings (MD-7) and Raskin are not trying to undermine our constitution.

I called Sen. Chris Van Hollen’s and Jamie Raskin’s offices last week to find out where they stand on Cardin’s bill. Both told me that the members were “still considering it.” Here’s what I sent to Van Hollen:

I’m not sure how much study one would need to determine that a piece of legislation like this elevates another country’s temporal interests over our fundamental civil liberties.

I called Van Hollen’s office again today and was told exactly the same thing as last week. It is apparent that Chris Van Hollen is ducking his responsibility to stand up for the First Amendment. This goes beyond political cowardice – since his reelection to the Senate is damn near guaranteed for life. In fact, I can think of no explanation for it at all. I urge you to write him and call him (202-224-4654) to get him to do the right thing.

Because I have a personal relationship with Raskin, I called him directly last Friday and was gratified to hear him denounce the measure unequivocally. When I told him that his staff didn’t know his position, he said he would take care of that promptly and issue a written statement. When I called back today, his staff still didn’t know his stand and had not seen a statement. I urge you to write him and call him (202-225-5341) to get him on the public record.

We learned two years ago, when Ben Cardin and Chuck Schumer were two of only three Democrats to oppose the Iran nuclear deal, that they will always prioritize Likud’s interests over American interests. This is a soft form of treason, in my book, and neither of these men deserves to be in elected office. (They are entitled to their opinions — no one is entitled to be an elected official.) What amazes me this go ‘round is how many additional Democrats are willing to swear allegiance to Benjamin Netanyahu instead of to the Constitution of the United States of America. Please remember this in 2018.

*Kirsten Gillibrand seemed like such a hero in the winter when she led Dems in the number of Trump appointments she voted against. Oh well.

©2017 Keith Berner

01.29.17 Silence = Evil

January 29, 2017

Here’s link to a google spreadsheet showing where every US senator stands on the Trump Regime’s Muslim Ban, which was announced on Holocaust Remembrance Day. (Trump’s statement re the Holocaust failed to make any mention of Jews.)

Of 51 Republicans, 47 have been silent (with some even spending the day tweeting about sports). The Righteous Three who have spoken out against the ban are Susan Collins (ME), Jeff Flake (AZ), and Benjamin Sasse (NE). Orrin Hatch (UT) has criticized the principle, but is neutral on the policy.

Of 49 Democrats, the Silent Hall of Shame is Joe Manchin (WV – most racist state in the country* – does he get a pass?), Ben Nelson (NE), Jon Tester (MT), and Tom Udall (NM). It’s interesting to note the reversal of NE’s two senators on this.

It has been widely noted that Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) spoke out against a Muslim ban last year. They opposed a significant number of other Trump policies, as well. Now they are 100% on board with Trump in pursuit of their one overarching goal: wealth transfer to the wealthy.

Thanks to Montgomery County Councilmember Marc Erlich for posting this.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1hSGjyWJZIQJpGz4V2ftX_qioCgBtL59oJkkhx146nFE/htmlview?sle=true#gid=0

*My measure of WV as most racist is based on the fact that every state on the country voted bluer in 2008 than in 2004, except WV, which went dramatically the other way.

11.23.13 Impeach Obama

November 23, 2013

Readers of this blog know  I am not suggesting impeachment based on Obama’s being a Muslim socialist who was born in Kenya. (Oh that he were a socialist!) My bill of goods against the president starts with his right-wing stands on civil liberties (and Wall Street) and ends with his complete, nearly incomprehensible incompetence.

Civil Liberties

Barack Obama lost my enthusiastic support in the summer of 2008, when he switched sides on telecom immunity. Until then, he had supported holding the telcos (led by the always-evil Verizon) accountable for  sharing customers’ private data with the government. Then he suddenly decided  these corporate behemoths were golden. I voted for Obama in 2008 and cried when he won. But I knew then that the man others would accuse of socialism was at best a tepid liberal and at worst a  bonafide right-winger.

Obama has gone on to be the worst civil liberties president in American history. Apart from ending torture (which, granted, is a big deal), this administration has taken nearly all of W’s extra-legal, barely legal, or it’s-legal-because-we-say so surveillance and detention tactics and expanded them. It has pursued a drone war that doesn’t discriminate between the guilty and innocent or US citizens and foreigners. And, of course, there’s the NSA, which has shown the big lie in Obama’s promise to lead the most transparent and open government ever. Obama’s obsession with secrecy has led to the highest number of prosecutions against leakers in history, along with truly frightening attacks on the press, the essential institution for holding government accountable and preserving freedom.

The extent of this president’s obsession is shown by his reaction to Edward Snowden. When Obama backed out of a summit with Vladimir Putin earlier this year, do you think it was because of Putin’s dictatorship, with its attacks on civil society or its encouragement of violence against gays? Hell no! It was because Russia had taken Snowden in. Then, the mere possibility that Snowden might be aboard the Bolivian president’s plane, as it transited Europe in July, was sufficient for the US to get pliant allies to ground the aircraft so that our agents could see for themselves.

Incompetence

After the GOP shut down the government and nearly forced the US to default on its debts this fall, prognosticators were reporting lowest-ever ratings for that party and predicting Democratic gains in 2014. Since then, it is Obama’s ratings that have fallen off a cliff and Democratic candidates are running scared across the country, as they try to figure out how to distance themselves from the president. The political world has reversed course in little more than a month!

The Obamacare disaster not only has the potential to set back the cause of health-care reform for a generation, but has also breathed new life into the right-wing extremists who own most of the land area of the country and one house of Congress. If the GOP takes the Senate next year, there will be one man to blame: Barack Obama.

No, it wasn’t bad enough that the president forgot to pay  attention to whether the rollout of his signature achievement was going to work. He had to compound that self-inflicted wound (a European friend of mine referred to  it as an “own goal” – when a soccer player scores one for the other team) by repeatedly, knowingly lying to the American people about their right to keep their existing policies. What did Obama think – that no one would notice?!

(Substantively, I have no problem with forcing the cancellation of policies that would undermine the whole system. It’s the lying about it that is the problem.)

So then Obama tried to undo the damage by announcing a “fix” that will allow people to keep these lousy policies. And immediately, analysts declared the fix unworkable. We are now learning day after day (thanks, Washington Post) about the details of the failed website: how the administration hired the wrong people to build it and ignored clear, persistent warnings that it wasn’t going to work.

The operational incompetence is stunning. The lying continues a long pattern of Obama political incompetence. It took nearly 3-½ years for the president to recognize that the GOP wasn’t interested in negotiating a deal, any deal – no matter how right wing. He kept negotiating with himself – publicly — continuously moving farther and farther toward GOP positions and getting nothing in return.

The Obamacare debacle began in 2009, when Obama abdicated all leadership on the matter to Congress, which – of course – was in thrall to the insurance industry and other corporate interests,  producing the complex mess that is teetering on the edge today. Obamacare – if it survives – will do at least as much to enrich private interests as to lower costs (higher than any other industrialized country) or produce better outcomes (worse than any other industrialized country).

In 2010 Obama (granted – with the complicity of spineless Democrats in Congress) ceded the entire political dialogue to the rising Tea Party and the likes of Sarah Palin. While talk of death panels dominated the media in summer and fall of that year, Democrats headed towards a crushing defeat at the polls. I’m not just referring to the loss of the House, but also the loss of statehouses, coast to coast. The GOP dominance in the states then produced the gerrymandering and voter suppression measures that will keep the GOP in power at least until the 2020 census, if not beyond. Much of this is due to Obama’s mind-numbing inability to use the bully pulpit, build effective political alliances, and buck up scared-of-their-own-shadows Democratic lawmakers.

Consider foreign policy. In a space of two years, Obama has taken the US from being a moral, human rights champion to being a realpolitik status-quo power that Henry Kissinger could love. Your blogger (who works for a human rights organization) is sometimes torn between idealism and realism in foreign policy. I get that this stuff ain’t easy. But to go from an embrace of Hosni Mubarak (a personal friend of Bill & Hill) to supporting the Muslim Brotherhood (who were, after all, the winners of a democratic election), to praising Abdul Fattah al-Sisi’s thugs as if they were akin to Thomas Jefferson (why can’t John Kerry just shut his fucking mouth?!)?

The result is that everyone  in Egypt hates and distrusts us, even as we continue funneling billions of dollars to the brutal murderers who now run the place. For god’s sake: if you’re going to support a military dictatorship, at least do so in a manner that wins that dictatorship’s trust and respect! We learned this past week that al-Sisi is trying to negotiate closer ties with Putin.

The promised “pivot to Asia”? Gone south due to other distractions. The relationship with the European allies (who were practically drooling at the chance to start over following the horrific reign of W’s cowboy neocons)? Toast, because of our spying and a general sense of US fecklessness.

And then there are the “red lines.” Use chemical weapons, Obama says, and we’ll do something really, really bad to you. Except that we don’t really mean it. And so when we get a face-saving opportunity to back away from the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria, we jump at it.

Whether or not to bomb Syria was not an easy decision – see my post on the topic. The problem was the stark declarations from Obama without, apparently, any consideration of what should come next. This administration doesn’t stop and ask: hey, what will we do if the other guy doesn’t respond the way we expect him to? There is no Plan B. Only destined-to-fail Plan As.

Facing Facts

Now hear this, Obama fan-boys and –girls: we are not comparing Barack Obama to W or Mitt. Of course Obama is better than any GOP alternative!

We ought to be comparing Obama to what he could have been and to what this country (and the world) need. We ought to be holding this man accountable for repeatedly handing our enemies (the Tea Party right) the rope to hang us with.

To those who say, “Well, being president is hard. What do you expect?” – I ask, is it too much to expect basic competence and a commitment to tell the truth (at least in our own self-interest)? Is it, really?

The title of this blog post is serious. I don’t expect it to happen, but I would be delighted to see Barack Obama resign or be removed from office. Let’s give Joe Biden a chance to see if he can get the basics of governance and leadership right.

The Obama administration is finished, kaput, done. All two-term presidents lose power as their lame-duck status grows. None has experienced a collapse of this magnitude at the very inception of the second term. None has faced entrenched, fanatical enemies like the GOP is today. Democrats and progressives would be smart to move on, to try something — anything — rather than sitting back and whimpering as this failed president sets the table for GOP victories to come.

©2013 Keith Berner

03.27.11 AT&T + TMobile = Threat to Democracy

March 27, 2011

Commentators are bemoaning the effect of AT&T’s purchase of T-Mobile, combining the second and fourth largest cellular providers to become the undisputed number one. As they point out, the elimination of T-Mobile as the lowest-price carrier will certainly bring higher prices to consumers coast to coast.  But the greatest cost to the US public comes not in the form of higher prices, but rather in a further constriction in freedom of access to information.

Cellular consolidation is directly related to the unfortunately named “Net Neutrality.”  I say the term is unfortunate, because non-techies’ eyes tend to glaze over when they hear it.  I’d rather call the issue “internet freedom.” For those of you who have taken an interest in net neutrality, the issue has tended to be painted in economic or convenience terms (just as with the AT&T/T-Mobile merger). True, one hazard of allowing huge corporations to discriminate against content based on its source might be higher prices to get access to certain content or longer download times for content that the given corporation wants to disfavor because a rival produced it.

Much more chilling is the idea that huge corporations will simply prevent you from ever seeing anything they disagree with.  This has already happened at least once.  In September 2007, Verizon blocked NARAL (the abortion rights group) from sending text messages to its supporters. Why? Because Verizon disagreed with NARAL.

A commitment to — and legal enshrinement of — internet freedom would prevent the corporate elite not only from discriminating against the movie studio or TV channel their rival owns, but also against free speech that  they just don’t like. Late last year, the FCC took an apparent step in that direction; however, the “compromise” put forth by the agency applies only to internet access coming through wires (e.g., cable, DSL, FIOS). It totally exempts wireless connections, i.e., those you get through mobile devices.  Guess which kind of connection is the future of internet access.  You got it: the wireless kind.

So, how is the technology industry reacting to the FCC’s feckless compromise?  With absolute fury. Verizon, Google (that old “don’t be evil” motto means nothing) and every Republican in Congress believe that rights of corporations trump those of citizens.  To them, any restriction on corporate freedom — including the right to keep you from consuming whatever content you want on the internet — is to be combatted with all their considerable might.

To make matters worse, this entire spectacle is taking place in the context of enormous media consolidation. As daily newspapers disappear from towns and cities nationwide, broadcast news is now more or less reduced to CNN and Fox. Don’t let the latter’s right-wing ranting blind you to CNN’s ideology. Both networks are pro-corporate, militaristically nationalistic, sensationalist, and superficial.

I have long considered the internet to be the last bastion of freedom and democracy.  While decrying the fact that most Americans get their news from an ever-narrower list of sources — all of which buy into the pro-corporate status quo, I have also celebrated the fact that those of us looking for balanced perspectives and independent voices were free to find them. As imperfect as our democracy is, the threat of government censorship has remained negligible for a very long time.

But it is not government censorship we have to fear in the United States.  Rather, the biggest threat to meaningful freedom of speech and access to information comes in the form of corporate censorship.

Even under the most rosy scenario for net neutrality, the only three remaining cellular providers (AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint) will be exempt.  Sure, they’ll disagree with each other on this or that.  But, they will be in full cahoots with the Koch brothers, the rest of the US corporate leadership, and the US Congress (their nearly wholly owned subsidiary) to make sure that revolutionary thinking (even the unarmed kind) just can’t be found.

This fits precisely with the corporate elite’s purposeful program to dumb down the US public education system: a functionally illiterate populace lacking in analytical ability and spoon-fed an ideology of false freedom won’t have the means or desire to notice its invisible chains.  And corporate control, along with further enrichment of the ultra wealthy, will the unquestioned law of the land.

©2011 Keith Berner