My first visit to Texas was in 1968, on the fifth anniversary of the assassination of president John Kennedy in Dallas. I drove south, following the line of telegraph poles to the small town of Midlothian, where I met Penn Jones Jr, editor of the Midlothian Mirror. Save for his drawl and fine boots, everything about Penn was the antithesis of the Texas stereotype. Having exposed the racists of the John Birch Society, his printing press had been repeatedly fire-bombed. Week after week he painstakingly assembled evidence that all but demolished the official version of Kennedy’s murder.
This was journalism as it had been before corporate journalism was invented, before the first schools of journalism were set up and a mythology of liberal neutrality was spun around those whose “professionalism” and “objectivity” carried an unspoken obligation to ensure that news and opinion were in tune with an establishment consensus, regardless of the truth. Journalists like Penn Jones, independent of vested power, indefatigable and principled, often reflect ordinary American attitudes, which have seldom conformed to the stereotypes promoted by the corporate media on both sides of the Atlantic.
Read American Dreams Lost and Found by the masterly Studs Terkel, who died recently, or scan the surveys that unerringly attribute enlightened views to a majority of Americans who believe that “government should care for those who cannot care for themselves” and are prepared to pay higher taxes for universal healthcare, who support nuclear disarmament and want their troops out of other people’s countries.
Returning to Texas the week before the presidential election, I am struck again by those so unlike the redneck stereotype, in spite of the burden of brainwashing placed on most Americans from a tender age: that theirs is the most superior society in the history of the world, and all means are justified, including the spilling of copious blood, in maintaining that superiority around the world.
That was the subtext of Barack Obama’s “oratory” on and prior to election night. He said he wanted to “build up” American military power, just as he had threatened to ignite a new war in Pakistan, killing yet more brown-skinned people. That will bring tears, too. Unlike those shed publicly on election night, they will not be featured on TV in Chicago and London. This is not to doubt the sincerity of much of the response to Obama’s election, which happened simply because a majority of Americans are fed up with the crooks of Wall Street and with war. Two years ago this angry, mostly anti-war vote installed a Democratic majority in Congress — only to watch the Democrats hand over more money to George W Bush to continue his blood fest. For his part, the “anti-war” Obama voted repeatedly in the Senate to give Bush what he wanted.
Obama’s election is historic, a symbol of great change to many. But it is equally true that the American elite has grown adept at using the black middle and management class. The courageous Martin Luther King recognised this when he linked the human rights of black Americans with the human rights of Vietnamese then being slaughtered by a liberal Democratic administration. And he was shot. In striking contrast a young black major serving in Vietnam, Colin Powell, was used to “investigate” and whitewash the infamous My Lai massacre. As Bush’s secretary of state, Powell was often described as a “liberal” and was considered ideal to lie to the United Nations about Iraq’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction.
Condoleezza Rice, lauded as a successful black woman, has worked assiduously to deny the Palestinians justice. In other words, the most right-wing American administration for a generation saw no contradiction in deploying African Americans to share responsibility for its extreme policies.
Obama’s first two appointments represent a denial of the wishes of his supporters on the principal issues upon which they voted. Vice-president elect Joe Biden is a proud warmaker and Zionist. Rahm Enamuel, who is to be the all-important White House chief of staff, is a fervent “neoliberal” devoted to the doctrine that led to the present economic collapse and the impoverishment of millions. He is also an “Israel-first” Zionist who served in the Israeli army and opposes meaningful justice for the Palestinians — an injustice that is at the root of Muslim people’s loathing of the United States and the spawning of jihadism. Gaza is being starved to death, according to a leaked International Red Cross report. The Israelis have cut almost every lifeline. Has the president elect spoken out? No. During the campaign he described Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, which not even the Bush administration accepts, let alone the rest of the world.
When the G20 met in Washington to discuss the crisis of capitalism, the president elect’s representative was Madeleine Albright, perhaps the embodiment of the power politics against which Obama’s supporters voted in their millions. In 1996 Albright, then president Bill Clinton’s UN representative, was asked an unusually direct question on American television about the US-directed embargo on Iraq: “We have heard that half a million children have died — that’s more than died in Hiroshima — is the price worth it?” To which Albright replied, ” — we think the price is worth it”. And Hillary Clinton as secretary of state? The most violent US presidential reign was not Bush’s, but Bill Clinton’s. And his wife was, and remains, its apologist.
No serious scrutiny of this has been permitted within the histrionics of Obamamania, just as no serious scrutiny of the coming betrayal of the majority of black South Africans was permitted within the “Mandela moment”. This is especially marked in Britain, where the US’s divine right to “lead” is important to elite interests. Having supported Bush’s war in Iraq, echoing his fabricated evidence, the once liberal Observer now announces that “America has restored the world’s faith in its ideals”. These “ideals”, which Obama has sworn to uphold, have overseen since 1945 the destruction of 50 governments, including democracies, and 30 popular liberation movements, causing the deaths of countless men, women and children. It is a record without equal in the modern era.
None of this was uttered during the election campaign. Had it been allowed, there might have been recognition that liberalism as a narrow, supremely arrogant, war-making ideology was destroying liberalism as a reality. As for historic moments, there is another that has gone unreported but is well under way — liberal democracy’s shift towards a corporate dictatorship, managed by people regardless of ethnicity, with the media as its clichéd façade.
“True democracy,” wrote Penn Jones Jr, the Texas truth-teller, “is constant vigilance: not thinking the way you’re meant to think and keeping your eyes wide open at all times.” —