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Nov 96 [Updated 1-2-2006]
THE DARK AGE CONTINUUM
by Kevin Sullivan
Radicalism and The Threat of Democracy
I came across an article by Mark Twain, titled To the Person Sitting in Darkness , it's worth reading - [http://www.accinet.net/~fjzwick/twain/persit.html]. Written nearly 100 years ago it starts with the timeless lament of the radical with the audacity to proclaim "the emperor wears no clothes."
"Christmas will dawn in the United States over a people full of hope and aspiration and good cheer. Such a condition means contentment and happiness. The carping grumbler who may here and there go forth will find few to listen to him. The majority will wonder what is the matter with him and pass on."--New York Tribune, on Christmas Eve. [Mark Twain North American 1901]
Not much has changed. Owing to a combination of middle and working class intellectual indolence, bogus grade school history and the almost exclusive right wing orientation of talk radio and mainstream media, we continue to move away from enlightenment at warp speed.
What was Mark Twain talking about almost 100 years ago? He was describing the mainstream's unenlightened attitude toward the radical (radical DOES NOT mean outrageous) and any awareness of the reality of American Imperialism, which he facetiously called The Blessings-of-Civilization Trust.
The existence of this scoffing attitude towards radicalism is an absolute pre-requisite to succumb to our propaganda system, whose primary mission, aside from profit, is to perpetuate, unexamined, our system of surplus production for profit. Jack London called it The Iron Heel, George Orwell called it Big Brother, I call it the Dark Age Continuum - generically speaking we could call it unregulated, misunderstood, capitalism. Like the Emperors New Clothes, it can bear very little radical scrutiny.
The only things that change are the props and the scenery. The true dynamics of the system are ignored and dismissed, resistance to imperialism is regarded as satanic or stalinist by "The Blessings-of-Civilization Trust." The interactive nature of The Internet and specifically The World Wide Web threatens to replace this one way information system and change all this by making the "looking glass" two way. That being the case, attempts are made to marginalize it by relegating it in the common mind to the terrorist and child molester. This is the current tack and focus of the right wing liberal corporate media, congress, the president and the courts. Otherwise Democracy might replace plutocracy.
The printing press and the "Dark Age", Coincidence or Cause and Effect?
It's interesting that the finite dark age we are taught a little about was concurrent with the Gutenberg printing press. Seized by the dominant western global corporation of the middle ages (the catholic church) it was used to perpetuate the demon haunted world of the judeo/islamic/christian triumvirate. Instead of spreading truth and enlightenment, virtually the only books printed were the bible, the Malleus Maleficarum or Hammer of Witches (the inquisition's manual for hunting witches) and scores of other justifications for the inquisition and papal infallibility. The seminal message of these books is: women are "the carnal source of all evil." and the devil is everywhere, so don't believe your own eyes, believe what we're telling you.
Of course, these books weren't for public consumption. Instead of encouraging universal literacy, the printing press became a tool of oppression, learning was "discouraged." In The Demon Haunted World Carl Sagan writes, "In the sixteenth century the scholar William Tyndale had the temerity to contemplate translating the New Testament into English. But if people could actually read the Bible in their own language instead of arcane Latin, they could form their own, independent religious views." The bible was contraband. Not unlike modern capitalism, church dogma could bear no radical scrutiny. The questioning of authority was heresy and dissension was the work of the devil. William Tyndale was hounded across Europe, garroted and burnt at the stake, for suggesting personal access to the bible without the filter of clergy might be a good thing. This treatment of dissenters created a climate for the church/state to wield fear, like a scalpel through common sense and the natural resistance people have to tyranny over their minds. A recent reminder of this tactic is the treatment of Surgeon General Elders when she suggested there be a discussion of drug decriminalization. Change a few words and it's the same story. Marginalized and hounded out of office in a "kinder, gentler" inquisition. Don't even ask the question, that's a continuum.
World Wide Web - Printing Press of the Next Millennium
Still, in it's infancy, the World Wide Web is a serious challenge to this top down flow of power. Information without the corporate filter. This is most threatening to the plutocracy. The flow of information on the World Wide Web is TWO-WAY and - for the time being - virtually uncensored in the U.S. ANYONE with a computer and a telephone can put up a web site the entire world can see, limited only by their own creativity and effort. Imagine, what would the world be like now if ANYONE could have run their own printing press back then - and live to tell about it. Mind-boggling. The reality of the inquisition would have been exposed for what it was, as The Web is now doing with our modern counterpart to the inquisition, the war on drugs.
The props do change. The printing press, radio, television, the personal computer and World Wide Web. Unlike these previous technologies, an unusual paradox from capitalism and technology occurred - the PC and The World Wide Web fell into the hands of regular people.
Absent a system such as The World Wide Web, the corporations in control of the dominant media control the spectrum of the debate as Pope Innocent controlled the administration and selection of official victims of The Inquisition. They own it. Until The Web, they decided what was news "fit to print." The spectrum of opinion has become far to narrow. They manage the mainstream consciousness away from seeing "The Blessings-of-Civilization Trust" for what it is. It has been written about throughout our century , and tossed into "the memory hole", ignored and misrepresented in the approved textbooks.
Mark Twain wrote about it, Jack London wrote about it, Helen Keller wrote about it, the alternative press has been telling this story from the beginning, Jackson Browne has been writing songs for more than 10 years about a fine example of this "memory hole", the secret wars funded by illegal drugs. Yet the story was absent in the mainstream media, relegated to the back pages if reported at all and never linked to the big picture as Gary Webb of The San Jose Mercury News has done. If The Web can remain under the jurisdiction of the 1st amendment, this approach to the creation of history is over. The memory hole is being opened. [Sad news about Gary Webb]
The World Wide Web - Life Support for Democracy
Finally, the San Jose Mercury News, respected mainstream press newspaper, has "broken" the story, documenting the history and the creation of the crack and violence epidemic in a three part front page series. Reaction? For the most part the mainstream media ignores it, another "conspiracy theory", concentrating instead on the dick morris sex scandal. Imagine, one of the primary conspiracies in the world is exposed and the "free" press guaranteed by the 1st amendment concentrates on a trivial sex scandal committed by one of the democratic president's republican advisors.
The San Jose Mercury News "suggests" that it was the reagan administration's amoral effort to fund the contras that created the crack and violence epidemic. Instead of embracing the truth, the clinton administration (in it's misguided effort to deal with the legacy of the high crimes and misdemeanors of the reagan/bush regime) and it's ally, the republican majority congress, is ramming through crime and terrorism bills that shred the bill of rights. Surreally, bob dole (the senator from skoal) runs around the country saying teen drug abuse is all clinton's fault.
NOWHERE in the mainstream press is this hypocrisy ridiculed. Inexplicably, the president doesn't point it out either. "Gee whiz bob, it says here in the San Jose Mercury News that is was your buddies the contras that brought the shit in!" "Golly, it says here bob that, YOU called them freedom fighters." "Gee willikers, whose freedom might that be BOB!" But he says Nothing! He attacks iraq. It should tell us something that neither of these guys will say the emperor wears no clothes. Clearly, left to the mainstream this story was DOA.
Free speech is on life support, hanging on through The Web and the "alternative" press. It's an election year. This cyclical window of opportunity is enhanced by this democratic technology. People have two way access to more information than ever. The San Jose Mercury News put the story up on their web site. More people saw it there than the entire circulation of the print version. And - IT'S THERE EVERYDAY**, no more historical sleight of hand, "now ya see it, now ya don't." It is available all over the world. Anyone with access to The Web can download it and share it and show the scoffers what we're "grumbling" about, that the truth can be known. The source documents are there. Court records, internal memos, you can hear recordings of the witnesses to this ongoing criminal enterprise. When did the right wing liberal corporate media ever provide such radical information to it's readers? Never.
The Web, depending on how and who regulates it, can be a blessing or a curse. We can follow the historical model and allow the corporations and the government to turn it into a propaganda/surveillance system and give away our remaining privacy and power or we can use it to share information and become informed, independent of the right wing liberal corporate media.
You get what you need
We're really are lucky, Mick Jagger was right, "you can't always get what you want, ....you get what you need." The World Wide Web has emerged with the potential to be the most powerful conveyance for information in the history of the world. Right now enough of it is in the hands of the people. It won't stay there though if we don't start demanding from ourselves and our legislatures adherence to the principles embodied in the bill of rights instead of allegiance to legislation designed to strangle it. A free society requires an uncensored flow of information.
And always, Distrust those in whom the impulse to punish is strong. F. Nitzche.
**Since this was first written the quisling management of the paper has bowed to ruling class pressure, deleted and repudiated the series. But it lives, thanks to the WWW.