September 26, 2015

Making all the decisions, and talking all the profit

GUEST: Thorne Dreyer, writer, editor, and political activist who played a major role in the 1960s-1970s New Left and underground press movement, talks about the Rag Blog and Rag Radio on KOOP 91.7-FM in Austin Texas.

Eli and I had a great time with Thorne. I worried for a time that the conversation was getting too technical, comparing how we do the sound board and book guests. But listening to the interview afterwards, I think our focus was on presenting alternative views to a listening public, always denied critical analysis by the major media. 

Even Bernie Sanders can't talk about empire, possibly the single most important national issue of the last sixty years. More than half our national revenue goes to fighting wars abroad. Our record of killing millions of people and destroying the countries we invade always escapes media criticism. At most, wars like the ones fought in Vietnam and Iraq are deemed "mistakes" made with the best of intentions. But what if these wars were fought for the benefit of oil companies and weapons makers, and had nothing to do with idealism or democracy? That is the question that just can't be asked by our corporate controlled media.

Independent media thus has an oversized role to play in challenging American military aggression and the exceptionalism that allows this war making to be accepted by the majority of our citizens. Without independent media, most Americans passively accept the consensus that is presented to them by the corporate elite. 

Rag Radio and Activist Radio both interviewed Eva Spangler whose recent book exposes the criminality of the Israeli state. Of course, that is another subject that Bernie can't bring up. Major party politics only go so far, and what gets left out is the really important stuff. Americans are a people denied the chance to really consider their alternatives. That's how the one percent can get away with making all the decisions, and talking all the profit. 

So we talked about radio a lot, but as part of the emerging resistance. 

September 18, 2015

Exploring beyond the pages of our nation's textbooks

GUEST: Paul Bermanzohn, local activist and survivor of the 1979 Greensboro Massacre, talks about the drug war as a crusade of repression against the African American people, incarcerating millions to prevent a renewal of the struggle for freedom.

Paul came to the studio, always a pleasure to have our guest behind the mic. 

We didn't talk about the Greensboro Massacre, although we probably should have. The idea of keeping the races apart was certainly behind the KKK's deadly attack on this labor rights march some 35 years ago. Here is Democracy Now's coverage of the event at its 25 year anniversary.

The question that keeps coming back to me is how racism becomes so powerful in a society. Does it spring from an innate distrust of people who look and act differently than ourselves? Are we born with the instinct to protect those whose DNA most closely matches our own? Ants sacrifice themselves, as do most birds and mammals when predators appear. Are we similarly oriented to define ourselves by groups, and to act violently towards anything threatening from the outside?

Or are we taught racism to keep working people from organizing against the Capitalist predators who use our labor for their own profit? There is no doubt that US politicians have frequently used racism to gain votes. Encouraging fear of the "other" is an age old tactic of those seeking power within a particular group, tribe or nation. But do appeals to racism always have a class component?

Nixon's call for a War on Drugs may have been a coded appeal to white voters fearful of black uprisings. But at the time, I took his target to be people like myself. I was part of the antiwar movement when I got out of the Army in 1968 and I smoked weed like most people in my generation. I wanted to get rid of all our political leaders, the corporate controlled, warmongering Democrats as well as Republicans. To me, Nixon's appeal to Law and Order was more an assurance to the middle and upper classes that dirty hippies weren't going to intrude upon their sterile world.

Maybe those working in the nation's police forces saw things differently, especially if they were employed in the larger cities. To them, Nixon's call may have meant the arrest and incarceration of Black men. It is amazing how slow we are as a multiracial society to understand the poison of racism in our history. That may be closer to a class analysis that I could agree with. All but the very rich have robbed our society for generations through corporate corruption and endless wars. Yet our mainstream media never really talks about this, as it never gets to the bottom of racist oppression. To be aware, we must explore beyond the pages of our nation's textbooks or The New York Times. People like Paul Bermanzohn are eager to help us expand our vision.

September 15, 2015

Thanks for calling in

Thank you all for calling in and pledging. We only ask for donations once a year and the money we collect during the drive is critical to keeping the station operating.

A good pledge drive assures Vassar College that WVKR has lots of community support. We want to keep offering independent points of view in a sea of corporate controlled media.

Thank you for doing your part!

Fred and Eli

September 3, 2015

Coexist or parish

GUEST: Eve Spangler, sociologist at Boston College and a civil rights activist, talks about her new book: Understanding Israel/Palestine: Race, Nation, and Human Rights in the Conflict.

Eve was just as good on Activist Radio as she had been on NPR. There is something disarming about how she presents the history, both of her family escaping the Holocaust and of Israel, destined from the beginning to be an apartheid state.

As she puts it, "The supposed complexities of the conflict are gone." Anyone can find out the real history if they want to. And in terms of the creation of Israel, that history is one of massive ethnic cleansing. 

Talking to Eve gives me hope. She writes books about Palestine and takes groups of students to learn what Israeli occupation looks like. If more academics could be this frank, and use their truth telling to influence students, why someday the Israelis and the Palestinians might actually learn to coexist. 

We must all coexist or parish. This is the lesson the American Empire must learn if the human race has any chance of survival.