Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Evil: The Absence of Truth

Charlie Rose interview: Al Gore on the need for truth

M. Scott Peck, the author of The Road Less Traveled wrote: "Evil is the absence of truth."

If so, the United States of America is in the grip of evil, because truth has been replaced by lies, conjecture, gross commercialism, a rejection of science and the reduction of political questions to a matter of "spin."

No one can seriously deny that "spin" is the substance of our discourse today.

Even the idea that the earth is only 6,000 years old has gotten enough media attention and "spin" so that those few who insist on trying to lower every other Christian to their level of ignorance, are gaining ground in what should be a joke, not a debate.

As Michael Patrick Leahy, editor of the Christian on-line publication Christian Faith and Reason writes:

"The premise [of the earth being 6000 years old] worked well for The Flintstones cartoon show, but has zero credibility within the scientific community in general and the Christian scientific community in particular. Most Christians, and almost all Christians who work as scientists are 'Theistic Evolutionists.'"

Yet, we can call upon no one to remedy this but ourselves. Blaming others - fearing others - is a waste of time and feeds the beast.

American monk Thomas Merton wrote: “There is no use in our being upset by weakness and sin in anyone, we are all in the same boat…” and we are “…responsible to everyone for everything.” He urged, instead, that we “…come to terms with what is inmost in our own selves,” be someone “…who identifies himself with the sinful and suffering world in order to call down God’s blessing upon it,” and “…take upon oneself all the guilt.”

[Quotes: "Striving Toward Being, The Letters of Thomas Merton and Czeslaw Milosz," November 9, 1960, p. 98, p. 39; "Contemplative Prayer," p. 30, para. 3, s. 2; p. 31, para. 1, s. 1.; "Striving Toward Being, The Letters of Thomas Merton and Czeslaw Milosz," September 12, 1959, p. 55.]

Merton is correct. So how do we take responsibility? Start by watching this must-see interview of Al Gore by Charlie Rose in which they talk about how fragile our democracy has become, and what our response must be.

Our democracy is in peril because the public forum has been filled with banality and exploitative messages designed to sell products, confuse us, and grab our attention from what matters.

There is no longer any effort to lay out the pros and cons to an argument during "news" segments. Everything reported is "spin" - sound bites and "campaigns" to sell ideas. Facts and evidence no longer matter, as they once did in our republic. The most effective and well financed campaign succeeds in selling a course of action, no matter how flawed.

For instance, before the War in Iraq began, Senator Robert Byrd speaking to a near empty Senate, raised intelligent - and accurate - objections to the invasion. But no one was there, no one was interested in the facts - not the Senate, not the media, not the American people.

I remember that time and how, to simply mention the facts or raise questions about the wisdom of going to war, was met with angry faces and charges of being "a traitor" or "pro-terrorist."

I wrote an op-ed piece at that time arguing against the war and read it to my critique group. Not one person even heard the quality of the writing itself. They didn't give an actual critique. Instead, the men - who had gotten red in the face and were furious - condemned my ideas. Their "critique" consisted of generalizations they had been fed by the administration and parroted by the media, after which they claimed I "didn't understand."

The last four years and the debacle that has unfolded has shown that they were the ones who did not have a firm grasp on the facts.

How did that happen?

Through the use of Republican think tanks, strategists, marketers and lots of money, a skillfully crafted campaign of emotion manipulation was produced to embed the message within us that war was what we wanted - and what we needed.

As Bill Moyers said, in his speech to the National Conference For Media Reform:

"'In Orwell’s 1984, the character Syme, one of the writers of that totalitarian society’s dictionary, explains to the protagonist Winston, 'Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? Has it ever occurred to you, Winston, that by the year 2050, at the very latest, not a single human being will be alive who could understand such a conversation as we are having now? The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact there will be no thought, as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking — not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.'

An unconscious people, an indoctrinated people, a people fed only on partisan information and opinion that confirm their own bias, a people made morbidly obese in mind and spirit by the junk food of propaganda, is less inclined to put up a fight, to ask questions and be skeptical. That kind of orthodoxy can kill a democracy — or worse." ~ Bill Moyers

Over 3000 American families have lost their loved ones - with tens of thousands grieving over the injuries sustained by those who have come back maimed - because that kind of media control works - and worked in 2002 - 2003 when those messages, promoting war, were broadcast thousands of times by FOX, and by every other network who had gotten the message from this administration that to try to present the facts would insure those networks lost money and lost their seat at the news table. By design, no alternative voice was heard.

Gore quotes Andrew Card who, in a moment of unusual candor before the 2002 elections, answered a question about the timing of the media campaign to build support to invade Iraq as follows: "well, when you have a new product to launch, it's customary to start your campaign after Labor Day."

So the war in Iraq was a product launched. Imagine. A product that has killed so many and destroyed a country. And many are still buying it.

As Jonathan Mermin says, “In other words if the government isn’t talking about it, we [the news media] don’t report it.”

We tolerate this. Not only that, but we parrot how all the lives will have been wasted if we withdraw. Is this not a tragedy? That we will sacrifice even more lives to live in denial that the ones lost already were lost in service of a partisan strategy to control opinion and national direction?

As Americans, we have a problem. Other than PBS - which has been de-funded and its overseeing corporation packed with right-wing ideologues (Republican strategist Grover Norquist vowed the GOP would "stick a knife in" and kill once and for all) - there is no television media that we can believe. Yet people watch TV an average of 7 hours a day. As a result, we are, literally, having democracy programmed out of us.

And that is the intent of the radical right-wing that created this game.

As Moyers said in regard to the tremendous success of his PBS program NOW: "The more compelling our journalism, the angrier the radical right of the Republican Party became. That’s because the one thing they loathe more than liberals is the truth. And the quickest way to be damned by them as liberal is to tell the truth."

Christian moralist Thomas Merton saw this trend back in the 1960's and detested it, urging people to reject "the gray slop of images" with which we are being programmed.

We know a politician can say anything and - even if he is lying - he won't be debunked. Rather, the opposite is true. A campaign can be started by monied interests to convince voters, through swift boating that an honest politician - or a veteran - is a liar or a traitor, which is what happened to John Kerry and, before the 2006 elections, Patrick Murphy.

Not only does the media not tell us - loudly - who the monied interests are behind these baseless attacks, it feeds on them. Neither does it dissect what politicians say and point out untruths. In fact major media doesn't usually even cover what's important. Instead - when it mentions politicians instead of Paris Hilton's antics - it focuses on how politicians "look" and "deliver" and "sound convincing."

Since most U.S. media is controlled by five mega corporations - that want to continue to control and manufacture public opinion - millions have been spent on campaigns 1) to kill Internet radio (which will be fined out of existence beginning July 1st), 2) to get the U.S. Post Office to raise rates on small publications (which will force many to cease publication) and 3) to abolish Net Neutrality.

Do your nation a favor and watch this video. We are ALL responsible for the decisions made in this country and we cannot blame President Bush or the GOP for it all. We've allowed our consent to be bought, to be manufactured. We share in the blame for the disaster in Iraq and for the disaster - that, to our eternal shame - continues in New Orleans.

As Christians we have a moral responsibility to save the habitability of the earth, which is at risk and which our current administration - bought, paid for and controlled by the oil industry - denies. Yet the handful of "scientists" whom they use to dispute those thousands across the globe who clamor for policy changes to combat Global Warming, worked previously for big tobacco by denying cigarettes were addictive and caused cancer.

As Americans, we have a moral responsibility to save democracy in this country, which is under attack by the radical right wing of the Republican party.

Ask God to make you an active vehicle of truth, social justice, healing and peace. Make it your business to dig out facts and not be fooled by spin.

To do anything else is to practice a dead religion and serve the evil of untruth.
Faith, if it hath not works, is dead. James 2:17

Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. John 8:32

Send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me. Psalms 43:3

It is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. I John 5:6

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