Lectures from their betters to the great unwashed


Expanded from the 7-23-00
Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune

     You like to watch scared Republicrats running? Tell a pollster you're voting for Ralph NaderMichael Moore

     UPDATE (2-22-2004) — Along with Damon Runyon, Harry Truman and Orland Outland, The Barbwire responds to Mr. Nader's request for advice.

NADER SPEAKS -- Consumer advocate and presidential
candidate Ralph Nader speaks to an audience of about 125 at the Jot Travis Student Union at the University of Nevada-Reno on March 13, 2000..

A teen-sounding young woman called me one recent afternoon. After some general pleasantries, she asked how I would vote between Bush the Younger and Gore the Lesser.

"None of the above," said I. "Ralph Nader's probably going to be on the Nevada ballot. He's the most pro-worker presidential candidate."

This young person was ready, or at least her script was. She proceeded to read a list of postulations, such as "if you knew Al Gore was the most likely to protect the environment, would you vote for him?" She was trying to determine what pre-scripted issue might change my mind.

LINEUP OF LEGENDS -- Western Shoshone leader Carrie Dann, foreground, passes materials on the Ruby Valley Treaty to Ralph Nader. She and several other Native Americans traveled over 300 miles from various parts of Nevada to see Nader on March 13, 2000. After his speech, Nader asked Ms. Dann and her associates about their preservation of tribal history and language. From left are retired UNR Prof. of History Grant Leneaux, Carrie Dann, Raymond Yowell, Chief of the Western Shoshone National Council, longtime UNR Prof. of Journalism and Sparks Tribune columnist Jake Highton, Nader, Lois Whitney of the Western Shoshone Defense Project and Mary McCloud, who traveled from Shurz, Nev., in Mineral County.

She even wanted to know if I would be more or less likely to watch the Democratic National Convention given the following speakers: Rosie O'Donnell, Bill Cosby, Jesse Jackson, Bill Bradley and (this is not a gag) basketball player Shaquille O'Neal.

"Would you be more likely to vote for Al Gore if you saw him making a speech in front of the Washington Monument ...visiting Appalachian coal miners?...meeting with working mothers at a day care center? a wilderness area?...with senior citizens talking about Social Security? an urban youth center discussing drug policy?"

In other words, how would I react to Al Gore photo opportunities — not issues, but images.

"The Cold War against the American intellect yields a higher rate of return than the old arrangement with the Russians," wrote editor Lewis Lapham in the August edition of Harper's Magazine.

"The official mourners at the bier of American public education never fail to say something sad about the 'abbreviated attention spans' and the 'diminished capacity to think,' and it apparently never occurs to them that both those habits of mind sustain the profits of the credit-card industry and the banks," Lapham stated.

"If either presidential candidate were to make the mistake of exposing the educational system to the rigors of 'revolutionary change,' who would thank him for his trouble? Not the politicians, who depend for their safety in office upon an uninformed electorate, apathetic and disinclined to vote, unable to remember its history or name its civil rights...Not the sellers of sexual fantasy, the proprietors of gambling casinos, the composers of financial fraud, the dealers in cosmetics and New Age religion...

"The condition of the public schools is neither an accident nor a mistake. The schools as presently constituted serve the interests of a society content to define education as a means of indoctrination and a way of teaching people to know their place. We have one set of schools for the children of the elite, another for the children less fortunately born."

Lapham decried "the attitudes of passivity and apprehension" instilled in students "which, in turn, induce the fear of authority and the habits of obedience. An active intelligence tends to ask too many rude questions...and the schools do what they can to hold it for ransom and keep it at bay...If the language of politics becomes the stuff of sound bites, and if the electorate doesn't object to the secession of the confederacy of the rich from the union of the poor...who can say that illiteracy is not a consummation devoutly to be wished."

Michael Moore's recent essay endorsing Nader likewise lamented the sameness presented to the mindless by the two large-party candidates.

"You wanna tell me there's a choice here between two guys who both support NAFTA, WTO, the death penalty, the Cuban embargo, increased Pentagon spending, sleazy HMOs, greedy hospital chains, 250 million guns in our homes, more bombing of Iraq, the rich getting richer and the rest of us declaring bankruptcy?" Moore wrote.

"Friends, we are losing our democratic control over our country. We may have already lost it. I hope not. But in the last 20 years of the Reagan administration, Corporate America has merged and morphed itself to such an extent that just a handful of companies now call all the shots. They own Congress. They own us. In order to work for them, we have to take urine tests and lie detectors and wear bar codes on chains around our necks. In order to keep our jobs we have had to give up decent health care, the 8-hour day (and time with our kids), the security that we'll even have a job next year, and any unwillingness we may have to compete with a 14-year old Indonesian girl who gets a dollar a day."

Moore wondered "is it safe in a 'free society' to have the sources of our information and mass communication in the hands of just a few wealthy men who have a vested interest in keeping us as stupid as possible -- or at least in keeping us thinking like them so that we vote for their candidates?

"I fear the cement on this new oligarchy of power is quickly drying, and when it is finished hardening, we are finished. The democracy, the one that's supposed to be of, by, and for the people, will cease to exist.

"We must not let this happen, no matter how cynical and disgusted we've become at the whole electoral process.

"Ralph Nader, to me, represents a chance for us to at least temporarily stop the cement from drying," Moore concluded.

He left out only Washington Post columnist Mark Shields' favorite quotation, which economically sums up the current state of affairs: "We have two corporate parties separated by the issue of abortion."

Just how dumb does the power structure think we are? In the July 19, 2000, Reno Gannett-Journal, local corporate fixer Frank Partlow trashed Nevada's current rash of ballot initiatives. Noting Washington Post columnist David Broder's recent screed denouncing petitions, Corporal Partlow wrote that "Broder makes a compelling case that the initiative petition process, where the people vote directly on key issues, is less democratic than the representative form of government it was designed to fix."

The Reno paper never printed Broder's articles so its readers might see what he actually said. Not to worry. Partlow tells us all we need to know: "Broder's research shows that initiative petitions are promoted by special interests and funded by millionaires, with little public scrutiny."

As examples, Partlow used the state teacher's union's corporate income tax proposal and Sen. Joe Neal's, D-N. Las Vegas, petition to raise Nevada's world-low gross gaming tax.

Nothing like tarring everyone with the same brush. I know for a fact that Sen. Neal's petition represents no special interests or millionaires. Most of its funds will go to entities which have publicly disavowed Neal out of fear of reprisal from Gov. Dudley Do-Right and his masters in the gambling-industrial complex. The teachers' petition even includes an unheard of and illegal provision killing Neal's. (Anybody who knows of a millionaire's lobby supporting the funding of gambling addiction treatment, please call me.)

Mr. Broder's articles conveniently trace the history of petitioning the government back only 100 years. Both he and Mr. Partlow should go back a little further and look up the granddaddy of all initiatives, the Magna Carta, signed into law in 1215 by English King John Lackland.

Partlow and Broder unquestionably prove Lapham's point.

Be well. Raise hell. | U-News | C.O.P. | Sen. Joe Neal
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copyright © 2000 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 31-year Nevadan, a member of Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of U-News, where the past four years of columns may be accessed. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Sparks Tribune since 1988.

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