Four interesting items in the New York Times

I picked up the New York Times yesterday, it’s a thinsheet too, like the LA Times.I ripped out four pages from the newspaper, only one of them was a piece of journalism.

Columnist Bob Herbert wrote a great piece about the proud achievements of what Americans coyly call “liberals”. That is US citizens with a modicum of intelligence and a social conscience.  I put that last bit in there to distinguish them from intelligent conservatives-they’re the ones who know they’re f&8k9nG the rest of us over and get sadistic pleasure from it. They’re the ones who know it’s torture, think it’s OK and actually enjoy it being done to “terrrrists”.

Herbert’s column’s called “Hold your heads up” and it argues well that American liberals should be proud of who they are and not ashamed to be identified as liberals, even though it’s a swear word in the red states.

The other stuff I pulled was a series of interesting display ads.

[dribblejaws alert-you should go here]

I think you should read Bob Herbert’s piece, particularly if you’re American and are doubting your liberal politics; it starts like this

Ignorance must really be bliss. How else, over so many years, could the G.O.P. get away with ridiculing all things liberal?

Troglodytes on the right are no respecters of reality. They say the most absurd things and hardly anyone calls them on it. Evolution? Don’t you believe it. Global warming? A figment of the liberal imagination. [Hold your head up]

The other items I ripped were three display ads that offer a nice reinforcement and counterpoint to Herbert’s column.They each highlight why the American liberals and broad left cannot rest on their laurels, despite their proud history.

Defend Science!

A Berkeley-based organisation called Defend Science placed a quarter-page ad. Why does science need defending in the United States today, one of the most technologically advanced nations on the planet?

Basically, science is under attack from religious fundamentalists and hard-right conservatives. A group of over 2300 scientists, including 14 Nobel Prize winners have signed the Defend Science Statement. The statement is a call to action:

“The signs of this are everywhere. The attacks are coming at an accelerating pace, and include frequent interventions by powerful forces, in and out of the Bush Administration, who seem all too willing to deny scientific truths, disrupt scientific investigations, block scientific progress, undermine scientific education, and sacrifice the very integrity of the scientific process itself — all in the pursuit of implementing their particular political agenda. And today this dominant political agenda is profoundly allied and intertwined with an extremist (and extremely anti-science) ideological agenda put forward by powerful fundamentalist religious forces commonly known as the Religious Right. These fundamentalists now have extensive influence and representatives in major institutions of the U.S. government, including Congress and the White House. This itself goes a long way towards explaining why science itself is under such unprecedented attack.” [Defend Science Statement]

The group points to the nomination of fundamentalist Alaska Governor, Sarah Palin, as an example of how the Religious Right is organising to maintain the ethos of the Bush White House for another four years.

Palin called in the past for teaching creationism in science classes in public schools (though more recently has been cautious in stating what she thinks.)  She is an abortion opponent,  an advocate of the view that life begins at conception, and an opponent of most birth control.  As small town mayor in Alaska, she raised whether it would be possible to ban books from the town library, and tried to fire the town librarian who refused to go along.

Freedom from Religion

On the same day as the Defend Science group took out a quarter-page ad in the NYT, a coalition called the Madison (Wiscosin)-based Freedom From Religion Foundation placed a full-page ad directed at the 9/11 seventh anniversary which is today (US time).

Photo of twin towers used in FFRF NYT ad campaign

Photo of twin towers used in FFRF NYT ad campaign

The key message is that American freedoms are menaced by religious terrorism. The flip? This terrorism is both external and internal. he group also believes in the real separation of church and state. The ad points out that freedom depends on freethinkers:

The history of Western civilization shows that most social and moral progress has been brought about by persons free from religion. In modern times, the first to speak out for the abolition of capital punishment, for women’s right to vote, for death with dignity for the terminally ill, and for the right to choose contraception, sterilization and abortion have been freethinkers, just as they were the first to cal for an end to slavery. Today the fasted growing religious affiliation in America is “no religion”–as many as 50 million American adults dissent from organized religion, yet our rational viewpoint continues to be marginalized. []

How true, the national conversation here is dominated by religion and quasi-religious sentiment that oozes from every pore of the Bush administration. Notice how he ends every speech with “God bless America”. Bush’s political views cannot be separated from his religious ideology. The USA today is run by a tight coterie of clerical fanatics.

It’s no coincidence that Defend Science is in Berkeley (San Francisco) and that the FFRF is based in Madison, these are two of the most liberal cities in the US today and they buck the dominant trend.

The War Within

The final ad was for Bob Woodward’s latest book, The War Within: A secret White House history 2006-2008.

Woodward is famous, along with Ed Bernstein, for cracking open the Watergate scandal that brought down the Nixon administration. I’ve no idea if Bob Woodward would call himself a liberal, but he’s a campaigning journalist who continues to get amazing sources and inside information. Whatever his politics, Woodward is an important critic of the Bush administration and a champion of free-thinking.

The War Within chronicles, among other thing, the secret campaign of assassinations being conducted in Iraq and Afghanistan by US special forces on the direct orders of the White House. Not only do we have extraordinary rendition (a polite way of saying state-sanctioned kidnapping and torture), we now have explicity-endorsed black ops and extra-judicial killings. These are the techniques of a police state.

This full-page ad was on the reverse of Bob Herbert’s column in which he asks why liberals continue to be deferential and cowed by the attacks of the American right. Part of the answer is, despite the protests of the right, the American media is not dominated by liberals. In fact, like the media in most places, it’s dominated by conservatives and by the next best thing, an ideology of professionalism that masks a series of unchallenged ideological assumptions. This is particularly evident in the reporting of crime, business and politics, where challenges to the status quo are ridiculed and marginalised.

Liberals need to be proud of their heritage and defend it. More than that, as the fight against the dominance of religion in American political life shows, liberals need to be more offensive.

“Fuck off, dribblejaws, we’re coming to get you!”

One Response to Four interesting items in the New York Times

  1. Medusa says:

    Great read, thanks EM! Very interesting being there in the thick of 9/11 memorials, etc.

    I think a world where your own religion is your business and have no effect on anyone else would be a better, safer and much happier world; I dream on

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