The Free Marketplace of Ideas & Democracy

John Milton

 

 

 

[T] hough all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play on the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously, by licensing and prohibiting, to misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter?

—John Milton, 1644

 

The inspiration for this essay came from a recent story on Democracy Now! Titled “As Obama, Romney Hold First Debate, Behind the Secret GOP-Dem Effort to Shut Out Third Parties” televised on Oct. 3, 2012. It was quite an eye-opening story. The guest’s name was George Farah who is the founder and executive director of “Open Debates,” and the author of “No Debate: How the Republican and Democratic Parties Secretly Control the Presidential Debates,” for this reason & several others which I will discuss, my argument is that America is but a hollow shell pretending to be a democracy.

He’s the one who didn’t put the toilet seat down!

 

For the most part, I have lost my naïveté regarding all things political in America but this information did come as somewhat of a revelation as to just how pernicious or corrupt our so-called democracy has become. Here are a few of the highlights that Mr. Farah revealed in his interview with Amy Goodman:

 

  • The presidential debates used to be run by The League of Women Voters but the GOP & the Dems colluded and took over because the League wouldn’t compromise their true democratic principles
  • President Carter absolutely opposed independent candidate, John Anderson’s participation in the presidential debates. The League stood up to Carter’s demand and President Carter refused to show up and the League held the debate anyway and it was watched by 56 million Americans
  • Four years later the Mondale & Reagan campaign teams vetoed 80 of the moderators the League had proposed for the debates
  • The League held a press conference revealing these facts and the Dems & the GOP were forced to back down due to public outcry
  • Four years later, Dukakis & George Bush drew up a 12-page secret debate contract and asked the League to implement it, the League refused to because it dictated the terms of the format of the debates. Instead, the League released the contract to the public and held a press conference accusing the candidates of “perpetrating a fraud on the American people” and refused to be an accessory
  • A year earlier, the Republican and the Democratic parties had ratified an agreement to “take over the presidential debates” and they created this artifice, the Commission on Presidential Debates and ever since, we’ve had this commission in charge/control of the debates
  • The contract specifies that the candidates cannot actually ask each other any questions during the debates; no third party candidates are allowed to participate, the make-up of the audience, etc.
  • The heads of this commission are the chairs of the respective political parties and Frank Fahrenkopf, the chair of the Republican party, is also the director of the American Gaming Association, the nation’s leading gambling lobbyist
  • The other co-chair of this commission is Mike McCurry, former press secretary to Bill Clinton and also a lobbyist on behalf of the telecommunications industry. They have demonstrated time & time again, a willingness to sacrifice the interests of the American people for private, political, and financial interests
  • This Commission on Presidential Debates gets the vast majority of its money from major businesses that support it. Anheuser-Busch is the biggest contributor

 

I included these details regarding the details behind our so-called presidential debates because this is my central argument i.e. the president of America is arguably the most important position not only in America but also in the world. The United States is not only by far the most powerful military in the world especially since Russia’s collapse but we are also the most powerful economy. And to have these debates so controlled/limited in such a shallow, staged manner makes a mockery out of what democracy is supposed to be. The “questions” are selected, designed so the candidates can avoid revealing their weaknesses, their ignorance, and their hypocritical stands e.g. Romney claiming to be a jobs creator when in fact he’s a jobs destroyer. Obama can pose as the champion of the working class when he in fact is the champion of Wall St. and has not prosecuted them for all the harm they’ve done to America and appointed three of the biggest crooks (Summers, Geithner, Bernanke) to the top positions in terms of shaping our economic policies.

These presidential debates are an elaborate public relations campaign clearly designed to dupe us into thinking there are major differences between the two candidates. I don’t enjoy being the bearer of bad news but somebody has to do it especially when we have a lap dog, corporate media that does nothing but lie and manipulate the facts and the news. I remember what a big deal the republicans made of John Kerry’s so-called “flip-flopping” when he was running for president but he was as steady as the Rock of Gibraltar compared to Romney who flip-flops every time he opens his mouth. Romney obviously caught Obama off guard in the first debate because he had once again completely reversed himself on every position. I was confident that Obama’s superior rhetorical skills would mop the floor with Romney but obviously, Obama’s advisors have so ham-strung him by telling him what subjects he couldn’t discuss e.g. Romney’s not revealing his tax returns, his tenure at Bain Capital, his flip-flopping, etc. that Obama was but a pale shadow of his normal self in speechmaking. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not voting for either one of them, I am sick to my stomach at the whole process and don’t buy the lesser of two evils argument anymore. As long as we keep allowing them to move the goal posts farther and farther to the right, the worse things are getting. Facts and truth have absolutely nothing to do with this three-ring circus and each candidate ignores the questions, no matter how soft they are and just pontificates about what he’d do as president. Lies heaped upon lies and we are supposed to feel proud and patriotic?

need I remind you of how few of those changes he made?

 

In conclusion my friend, like in ancient Greece, the birthplace of democracy, the rich and powerful men feared the truth and that’s why they silenced Socrates, the father of western philosophy. Socrates made the rich uncomfortable with his courageous defense of and seeking for the truth. We have sunk to an almost three thousand year low in western civilization and I fear for the survival of our species. The corporate cockroaches are running the world and we are but ugly, annoying eyesores as far as they are concerned. It’s all a dog and pony show or a circus maximus, an appropriate analogy to the Roman empire as the American empire rapidly disintegrates with our loss of liberty here at home and our expansion around the globe. Our military is the handmaiden to the power elite as we invade one country after another in a never-ending series of wars, police actions, etc. to rape, pillage, & plunder the resources of the world.

The Death of Socrates who spoke at the powerful in the birthplace of Democracy.

 

And like the charade called “the free market,” we don’t have anything even remotely resembling a free market of ideas. I was hopeful for a bit when the Occupy Wall St. movement sprang up but the wealthy soon stomped them into the ground and wouldn’t even allow them to use amplified sound to speak at their gatherings. Contrast that with the Tea Party movement where they could use amplified sound and even carry guns. If you’re a member of the Occupy Movement, you’re not even allowed to carry a backpack.

 

America is dying and it’s our own damn fault because we have been asleep at the wheel. FOX News has been allowed to do nothing but spew-out propaganda 24/7 and like Hitler’s minister of propaganda, Goebbels, they have succeeded in brainwashing millions of ignorant Americans. The major network and cable news channels follow in lockstep and even the so-called bastion of “liberal thought” the New York Times, beat the war drums for our invasion of Iraq louder than all except FOX News. Our soldiers should be fighting here at home to defend democracy in America, not overseas where they die for oil and for the profit of the greedy bastards who have no loyalty to America and discard our soldiers like yesterday’s newspaper when they return home. Wake-up America, the sun is sinking and twilight is fast approaching on our so-called democracy!

 

Without the free & open debate about the life-changing issues affecting America, the public is slowly persuaded that the “experts” on FOX “News” are right and there are always two sides to an issue and no matter how absurd the other “side’s” claim, it is equally valid. This timidity when it comes to standing up on one’s hind legs and calling Bull-shit, has allowed the craven & cowardly who call themselves “Conservatives,” to bully us into a corner. Issues such as public education, health care, military spending, foreign wars, have thousands of points of view and not all of them are equally valid.

 

I had to complete a ridiculous half unit course in order to earn my Bachelor of Arts in English Literature but there was one valuable thing I learned in this six-week course, which showed us where the library was, etc. after I’d been attending the university for two years. In a simple, thin handbook they gave us, there was a paragraph or two which pointed out that basically the closest we can come to finding out the truth about something is to 1) check the author’s credentials; 2) find out what other authorities in the discipline have to say about the author.

 

But in this topsy-turvy world full of Rush Limbaughs, Glenn Becks, FOX News, WalMart, infotainment, anti-intellectualism, etc. any moron can spout off whatever gibberish, fear mongering, racist rants they want to and nobody calls them on it. Why do you think it’s primarily the Right-wing nuts that dominate television & radio? Yeah, I know, another conspiracy nut. But think about it, could it be that these ignorant, racist, bigoted, anti-feminist, homophobic, war-mongering blowhards’ points of view don’t bother the corporate media’s owners because they deflect the public’s attention away from the crimes of their corporate owners?

The very core of what a Democracy is supposed to be is that the citizens have a voice in how their government i.e. their country, is run. And without a voice, the public are not participants in a Democracy but mere spectators. It is not a conspiracy theory to point out the rather obvious ownership of the U.S. media is in the hands of five corporations that are de facto conglomerates often with interlocking boards, C.EO.s, stockholders, etc. and there is enough evidence to fill a full set of encyclopedias, to prove clear as a bell that they, the owners, the vast majority of politicians, etc. collude with each other in keeping us dumbed-down and distracted. Consider the “variety” we’re offered on our hundreds of channels to choose from: “Reality shows;” sports 24/7; soap operas; sit-coms; cops & robbers shows; mini-series such as “The Walking Dead”; etc. Is it any wonder that so many Americans have little to no idea on subjects such as global warming, fracking, possibilities of nuclear war, etc.? It’s time we grew up and faced our responsibilities as citizens of the most powerful and hence dangerous nation on the planet by informing ourselves, spreading our knowledge, & standing up to the power elite, the plutocracy, the oligarchy or whatever you want to call it!

And perhaps if we took this responsibility much more seriously, just perhaps, we could put a stop to this absurd charade we call the presidential debates where they avoid every issue of true significance in order to pose & pretend to be “presidential looking” but don’t tell us or teach us about anything worth a damn!

 

Good luck and persevere!

 

—Rob DeLoss

John Milton (1608-1674)

P.S.  As the quote that I started this essay with said in other words, what’s there to worry about? The power of truth has nothing to fear from lies, censorship, propaganda, etc. let’s be open to debate and hold each other accountable to a much higher standard of truth, honesty, no circuses, and passionate but civilized debate and argument.

 

Addendum

 

I wanted to end this essay on a hopeful note but my conscience won’t let me. It’s 5:30 A.M. Nov. 5, 2012 and tomorrow we may find that the most powerful nation on Earth is led by not only a habitual liar but a pathological liar. I started this essay over a month ago but only finished it a couple of days ago because quite frankly, my creative energies are almost dried-up due to my daily struggles to get by financially. I am forced to work two part-time jobs that pay barely above the minimum wage and have no benefits. This state of affairs is due mainly to what George H.W. Bush dubbed “a kinder & gentler nation” and his son Dubya referred to as “Compassionate Conservatism,” and the complete lack of principles or spine on the part of the Democratic party. It dawned on me as I lay in bed unable to sleep due to my insomnia that America may find itself ruled by a male reincarnation of Marie Antoinette. Romney’s comments captured on video regarding the 47% of Americans who see themselves as victims and who are basically leeches on the liberal government’s social welfare programs is truly breathtaking in that it reveals in as clear a manner as is possible, the utter contempt & disdain for the American public as Marie Antoinette’s reply when the people of France were begging for bread.

 

If there was a competition in the Guinness Book of Records, Romney would have to be the world champion of liars and it really depresses the Hell out of me to know that perhaps 50% or more of my fellow Americans can actually believe that Romney should be our next president. Romney is the real life embodiment of the character, Gordon Gecko, in Oliver Stone’s first movie, Wall St. And like Gordon Gecko, Romney’s business model is to swoop on companies in trouble financially, buy the majority of shares in the company so as to be able to take over the management of the company, take out huge loans which the company is liable for, reward himself for his efforts handsomely, then chop the company off and sell it off piece by piece and putting the employees out of work and leaving the company a dead carcass with taxpayers footing the bill. And this is what he calls “job creation.” How have we come to such dire straits that a vulture capitalist like Mitt Romney could dupe half the citizens of the United States? First of all, a channel like FOX News that is allowed to spew forth lies 24/7 with little to no outcry on the part of journalists, academic leaders, or Congressional outrage. I refer to FOX News as the fear & hate mongering propaganda channel. Secondly, we have the corporate media that calls itself the mainstream media but is actually a lapdog to the power elite. And thirdly, we have a crumbling public education system which has been systematically destroyed from within and from without by “compassionate conservatives,” who prefer to keep the public ignorant and thus more easily managed, and from lackluster liberals who like Obama, go into every battle just wanting to compromise and play nice.

 

As I laid in my bed trying to go back to sleep, the book and the documentary “The Corporation: the pathological pursuit of profit and power” popped into my head and struck me like a lightning bolt, that’s Mitt Romney! Here’s a comment from my hero, Noam Chomsky, on the book:

 

This fine book was virtually begging to be written. With lucidity and verve, expert knowledge and incisive analysis, Joel Bakan unveils the history and the character of a devilish instrument that has been created and is nurtured by powerful modern states. They have endowed their creature with the rights of persons — and by now, rights far exceeding persons of flesh and blood — but a person that is pathological by nature and by law, and systematically crushes democracy, freedom, rights, and the natural human instincts on which a decent life and even human survival depends: the modern corporation. This incisive study should be read carefully, and pondered. And it should be a stimulus to constructive action — not at all beyond our means, as the author outlines.”
— Noam Chomsky

 

Here is a checklist of the clinical diagnostic checklist of the traits of a sociopath, reflect, if you will, on Romney, the Super Banks that played such a significant part in the world-wide economic collapse of 2008, Enron, and the thousands of corporations who commit fraud daily, as you read this list:

The science of exploitation

To determine the kind of personality that drives the corporation to behave like an externalising machine, we can analyse it like a psychiatrist would a patient. We can even formulate a diagnosis on the basis of typical case histories, of harm inflicted on others, selected from a universe of corporate activity.

Callous unconcern for the feelings of others 

Incapacity to maintain enduring relationships 

Harm to human health

Reckless disregard for the safety of others, harm to animals 

Deceitfulness and repeated lying and conning others for profit 

Incapacity to experience guilt

Harm to environment

Failure to conform to social norms with respect to to lawful behaviours, ie obey the law if its cost effective, business decisions based on economics

Unaccountable to nobody except itself – the biosphere is in decline, all the animals are in decline through pollution and loss of habitat.

Finally, yes I know this is profoundly depressing but our usual reaction of denying it and distracting ourselves allows this pervasive corporate criminal behavior to go on. So, bottom-line, it’s up to us to save ourselves and if we don’t make the effort, we have no one to blame but ourselves! And I couldn’t resist sharing one last gift with those of you who are true seekers of knowledge:

 

Marketplace of ideas

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The “marketplace of ideas” is a rationale for freedom of expression based on an analogy to the economic concept of a free market. The “marketplace of ideas” belief holds that the truth will emerge out of the competition of ideas in free, transparent public discourse. This concept is often applied to discussions of patent law as well asfreedom of the press and the responsibilities of the media in a liberal democracy.

The marketplace of ideas metaphor was first developed by John Stuart Mills in his book, “On Liberty” in 1859. It was later used in opinions by the Supreme Court of the United States. The first reference to the “free trade in ideas” within “the competition of the market” appears in Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.‘s dissent in Abrams v. United States, 250 U.S. 616, 630 (1919). The phrase “marketplace of ideas” first appears in a concurring opinion by Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. from 1965.[1]

The general idea that free speech should be tolerated because it will lead toward the truth has a long history.[2] The English poet John Milton suggested that restricting speech was not necessary because “in a free and open encounter,” truth would prevail.[3] U.S. President Thomas Jefferson argued that it is safe to tolerate “error of opinion … where reason is left free to combat it.”[4] Fredrick Siebert echoed the idea that free expression is self-correcting in Four Theories of the Press: “Let all with something to say be free to express themselves. The true and sound will survive. The false and unsound will be vanquished. Government should keep out of the battle and not weigh the odds in favor of one side or the other.”[5] These writers did not rely on the economic analogy to a market.

In recent years questions have arisen regarding the existence of markets in ideas. Several scholars have noted differences between the way ideas are produced and consumed and the way more traditional goods are produced and consumed.[6] It has also been argued that the idea of the marketplace of ideas as applied to religion “incorrectly assumes a level playing field” among religions.[7] In addition, the idea of a marketplace of ideas has been applied to the study of scientific research as a social institution.

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