Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Musings: Resist and Submit

Makalii was directly overhead, flanked by Orion and Aldebaran, bright as a planet, when Koko and I went walking in a world dominated by chirping crickets.

Just minutes before the sirens of a fire truck and ambulance racing up the hill had set off the hunting dogs that live in the valley, adding their howls to the crowing chorus of roosters, both domestic and wild.

And then suddenly, all was quiet, but I was wide awake, so I got up and went out, and was so very glad I did, or I would have missed the brilliant company of the stars, and never seen the sky shift from black to blue to apricot and cream.

There’s nothing quite like being out there and seeing things for yourself, which is why I’ve liked working as a reporter, and why I’ve been so concerned about journalists being arrested in Minneapolis while covering the news.

Or at least, what they considered the news, and that happened to include the action on the streets, as well as the GOP convention. Among those picked up was Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman, who is quoted in a Los Angeles Times blog as saying:

"I was very angry. This was a violation of my rights," Goodman said. "But 
it’s so much bigger than us. When the press is shut down, it's closing the eyes and ears of a critical watchdog in a democratic society."

It seems that’s precisely what the cops had in mind, because they were rounding up these journalists, even though their credentials were clearly visible, and charging them with rioting, just because they were there.

Sharif Abdel Kouddous, one of the two Democracy Now! producers who was also arrested, reported this revealing nugget:

[Police] “kept asking me, “What are you doing here? Why are you here?” I said, “We’re press. We’re here to bear witness to what’s going on, and that’s why we’re in the streets.” And he kept saying, “Oh, you should use a telescopic lens,” or, “You know, when it gets rowdy, you should just stay behind the corner.”

If you’re a journalist who doesn’t want to run and hide or be miles from the action, you can always follow the approach outlined by Minneapolis Police Chief John Harrington in a press conference:,

But, in general, what we’re trying to do is give reporters access. We have tried to give them, in fact, I think extraordinary access by embedding reporters in our mobile field force, as we were trying to do everything we can to make our operation as transparent to the news media as we possibly can.

So now the practice of “embedding” reporters has been extended from the military to the nation’s police departments, which means that only those media willing to go along with the law enforcement program can be assured that they won’t be thrown to the ground, or shoved up against a wall, bloodied, handcuffed, arrested and tossed in jail.

Not surprisingly, coverage of the arrests in the mainstream media — aside from the La Times blog and a short piece in the Washington Post — was virtually nil. Worse, the Associated Press: was apparently alone among MSM in objecting — perhaps because one of its own was picked up:

David Ake, an AP assistant chief of bureau in Washington, said he was concerned by the arrest of [Matt} Rourke, a Philadelphia-based photographer.

"Covering news is a constitutionally protected activity, and covering a riot is part of that coverage," Ake said. "Photographers should not be detained for covering breaking news."


So now we’ve got a double chill action going on. The citizenry is intimidated from exercising their rights by hordes of cops in riot gear using pepper spray, tear gas and flash grenades on protesters. And reporters, who have grown increasingly reluctant to actually chase a story in the flesh, rather than over the phone, are intimidated from covering protests by the prospect of getting arrested while doing their job.

End result? More fear, more complacency, more incomplete or totally contrived “reportage” of events, more citizens who don’t have a clue what’s really going on because it’s never even occurred to them that they might not be getting the whole story on their nightly news.

I was reading a fascinating story in the The New Yorker the other day about the growing nationalism among China’s youth and a comment by a member of that movement, Tang Jie, caught my eye:

Because we are in such a [totalitarian] system, we are always asking ourselves whether we are brainwashed,” he said. “We are always eager to get other information from different channels.” Then he added, “But when you are in a so-called free system you never think about whether you are brainwashed.”

The other day, a reader asked how I proposed effecting change on a consciousness level, and a good place to start is continually questioning whether we’re being brainwashed, and how.

That means getting out there and seeing and experiencing the world for ourselves, and observing carefully, and scrutinizing and reflecting, and when that’s not possible, to have access to media that is willing to go out into the midst of it all and, as Sharif Abdel Kouddous said, “bear witness” and report it back.

Once we’ve got some sense in our own hearts of what’s true, what’s real, then we have to resist, in whatever way feels appropriate to each individual, the forces that work to perpetuate the brainwashing and effectively extinguish life, and we have to speak up — bear witness ourselves in forums public and private — so that others will be reminded they’re not alone, and they needn't be afraid to resist those forces, too.

Through it all we’ve also got to be willing to submit, to yield to new opportunities, ideas, different ways of seeing and doing things, that don’t fit into our preconceived notions, our belief systems, which are merely mental constructs and so function as ongoing personal brainwashing.

It’s through that process of resistance and submission that I see consciousness being changed. And without a shift in consciousness, we can’t expect any of our human systems to change.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

I take the approach, as proven true in the stock market, that "the masses are asses" and must be lead. Most really really don't care and never will.

I have been out there in the USA and other countries and my opinion above stems from that. Manipulation of public opinion is the cornerstone of politics and will never change. The key is learning how to manipulate large or small groups to your ends.

I am not against this as I see it as a natural social process. Not to mention that the current form of manipulation is a current within which I can thrive.

Ed Coll said...

Anon September 3, 2008 9:19 AM wrote;

"Manipulation of public opinion is the cornerstone of politics and will never change."

The first part of the sentence is true, but "will never change" is an open question as mass media fractures it becomes increasingly difficult to influence mass perceptions.

Like watching the shifting red and blue colors of a soap bubble in the sun increase in speed, frequency, and distribution just before it pops (system failure) so the stock market is becoming increasingly unstable.

Seems a lot of the people (like Anon) who considered themselves "the smart ones" and others "asses" were jumping to their deaths in the localized 1920 market crash, leading one to ask what will happen when the next crash is not a localized event but system-wide?

Skill sets (including those of manipulation) are specific to prevailing circumstances. Hopefully Anon has developed some trans-junctional skills that can survive the "pop goes the weasel" event coming soon to a neighborhood near you.

Ed Coll said...

Joan wrote:
"The other day, a reader asked how I proposed effecting change on a consciousness level, and a good place to start is continually questioning whether we’re being brainwashed, and how."

Absolutely! And once you start getting answers is very hard to stop asking questions because the more you learn the more you want to learn and it becomes increasingly difficult to return to your former state of socialization. Perhaps that's what the phrase "You can't go home again" means.

Anonymous said...

These have been totally irresponsible police activities in Minneapolis-St. Paul. What concerns me is that police departments in other parts of the country understand the ignorance and irresponsibility of those actions in Minnesota. Particularly, Police Chiefs should instill and individual police officers should be able to discern and exercise reserved good judgement even under stress. There is no reason the 4 press members should have been physically mishandled and arrested. KPD better learn from this, 'cause we won't take the kind of shit that went on in Minnesota here on Kauai.

Anonymous said...

joan said:

"End result? More fear, more complacency, more incomplete or totally contrived “reportage” of events, more citizens who don’t have a clue what’s really going on because it’s never even occurred to them that they might not be getting the whole story on their nightly news."

And anyone who violates all these new Patriot Act security laws are dubbed criminals, even if they are just participating in peaceful protest. Whatever the mainstream media says, becomes unquestioned gospel truth.

Anonymous said...

"And without a shift in consciousness, we can’t expect any of our human systems to change."
Hammer on the Head- you nailed it!
it won't be easy and it wont be pretty but the shift is happening. so watch out when the shift hits the fan!

Anonymous said...

I don't see any "shift in consciousness". Just the usual ebbs and flows of liberial-vs-conservative and the unending unease of the "older generation" passing the torch to the "younger generation".

What is different in these times is the number of older Americans as a percentage of total population. I believe it will top out at over 35% in the next 5 years or so, without taking time to research that.

Maybe once the baby boomer generation dies off or gets above 75 years old, then maybe some shift will occur, but I don't think so. By then the "younger generation" will have become the "older generation" and, for the most part, have bought into the system.

Different decades....same stuff...no "shift in consciousness".

Sandhya said...

I am staying at the home of someone who watches network news constantly, so I have seen both conventions covered by CNN, Larry King, and PBS News Hour. The demonstrations outside the hall were not even mentioned. On Sept. 4, at John McCain's acceptance speech, there were brief camera shots of 3 demonstrators holding signs who somehow got into the hall. That's all. Joan, thank you for your perceptive reporting, as always, and for the many links you provide in this in-depth article.

Anonymous said...

I'm anon 8:42am.

Lifting from the Sep/Oct AARP mag (I've received it for 10 yrs now):

41% of American adults are over 50, highest percentage in US history.

80% of Congress is over 50.

Half of Americans who voted in teh 2006 elections were 50+.

People over 55 own 77% of all financial assets in the US.

50+ adults account for 45% of US consumer spending ($2.1 trillion/yr).

By 2011, the American 50+ population will surpass 100 million.

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So, money and numbers = "national consciousness" for the most part.

Better put your hopes for change in consciousness on hold until, maybe 2040...but then see what the opinions of those who stand to inherit all that wealth are.

Nothing changes, really.