Free Speech in America

Minneapolis, MN – I just spent the weekend at the National Conference for Media Reform that was held here in Minneapolis. If I ever had any doubt about the corporate media’s stranglehold on truth and it’s abuse of power for the sake of profit- all in the name of “journalism”- it was dispelled this weekend. And the most eloquent spokesperson revealing this sad reality was not one of the many intelligent, impassioned, and courageous people who addressed or attended the conference- it was Bill O’Reilly. “Reporting” about the conference on his Fox “news” show, O’Reilly characterized the attendees as lunatics, crazies, and fascists. Fascists??!! The whole point of the conference was to reclaim democratic access to and ownership of the means of public communication, information, and debate- television, radio, cable/satellite, print, and especially the Internet- almost ALL of which is now owned and controlled by a grand total of 6 companies. If you believe you are receiving any semblance of objective journalism in the corporate media, you ought to take a closer look.

It matters. This is how we got into Iraq. This is how we allowed Bush to steal an election. This is why we care more about the next American Idol than we do about Darfur, Tibet, Afghanistan, the environment, our next-door neighbors…

Among the lunatics and fascists at the conference were Bill Moyers, Dan Rather, Amy Goodman, Phil Donahue, Representative Mike Doyle, Senator Byron Dorgan, two current FCC commissioners, and many other incredibly thoughtful and motivated people who care deeply about this country and recognize that truly free speech is the foundation of any democracy worth the name. O’Reilly is either blatantly pursuing his own agenda at the expense of any pretense to truthfulness or he is truly one of the most ignorant people I have ever heard. It would be laughable, except that people believe him.

And that is the point.

This is serious folks. I think the most critical issues of our time are 1) the corporate/capitalist version of economic “growth” that is leading to the decimation of this planet’s ability to sustain life, 2) corporate control of the media, 3) the complicity of government with each. These are the foundational issues. Whatever other problems, injustices, causes that you are (rightly) concerned about, they can likely be traced back to one of these larger issues. In any case, your particular area of concern will never be sustainably resolved until we figure out first things first. Until we get the truth out about what is happening to our world, nothing will change. The truth is that the current system is designed to generate massive profits and power for an elite few at the expense of the earth and the majority of its inhabitants, and to keep the rest of the people impoverished and anesthetized.

Who controls what gets said? Who has the power to determine the message? How are we to communicate with each other as free people without truly democratic, decentralized, truthful, locally-connected media? This is how we live together. The political economy and the media are the conduits through which our material and mental/emotional/spiritual lives flow. Who controls them controls the flow.

It’s time for change. And I ain’t talkin’ about Obama (although I hope he wins by the biggest landslide in American history this November). Wake up, folks (myself included). Stakes is high.

Head on over to to listen to Moyer’s plenary address at the conference, to view video from other speakers such as Dan Rather and Amy Goodman, and to find out more about the critical need for media reform in this country.