9 02 2020

Once again, we Greens are being told that “the stakes are too high” for us to risk “spoiling the election for the Democrats.” Progressive activist Michael Albert wrote an “open letter to Howie Hawkins and The Green Party,” asking us not to get in the Democrats’ way, and then got a number of other writers and activists to sign on to it, including luminaries Barbara Eherenreich and Noam Chomsky. Hawkins wrote an impressive, eloquent, detailed response. Here’s my two cents on the question. It’s an expanded version of the response I submitted to Truthdig, one of the sites that published Michael Albert’s letter.

This article displays such ignorance of the facts of the matter, from the vote results to the Green Party’s strategy, and so blithely accepts the US media/electoral system as if fair, that I am surprised and disappointed that Prof Chomsky and Ms. Ehrenreich, both of whom I hold in the highest respect, would put their names to it.

In his letter, Albert accuses the Greens of depriving Ms. Clinton of the votes she needed to win the election. Let’s look at the numbers: in 2016, just under a million and a half people voted Green. Approximately seven million people switched from voting for Obama to voting for Trump, and ninety million potential voters stayed home. Even more stayed home in the 2018 midterms. To focus on the one and a half million out of that ninety-eight million who voted for the kind of radical change this country needs, as the ones bearing the onus for the Democrats’ loss, is a peculiarly biased way to write recent history. The Democrats spent a billion dollars in their effort to elect Ms. Clinton. We Greens spent three million on the Stein campaign, which may sound like a lot but is 0.3% of what the Democrats spent. And somehow their loss is our fault? That’s right up there with a few amateurish clickbait ads from a Russian source being the problem. In other words, The Greens are not the Democrats’ problem. (Howie Hawkins wrote an article by that title, but I didn’t know it when I wrote that sentence.)

Albert’s letter repeats the readily-refuted canard that “the number of people who voted for Jill Stein in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan would have given Hillary a win in those states if they had voted for her.” In Pennsylvania, 50,000 voters chose Jill Stein, while nearly four million didn’t vote at all. In Wisconsin, 31,000 voted for Stein and nearly a million and a half stayed home. In Michigan, 51,000 voted Green and about 2.75 million stayed home. In the face of such massive voter indifference, the Biblical phrase “straining out gnats and swallowing camels” comes to mind. The camel, in this case, is that in all of these states, and a great many others, more people declined to vote than voted for the “winning” candidate. The message here, I think, is that our established political parties each inspire only about a quarter of the voters, leaving a large plurality of the voting public feeling unrepresented. Something is missing from our political spectrum, and to attempt to suppress those who are trying to advocate for the missing ideas is to miss the point. Perhaps those who are deeply committed Democrats or Republicans are not missing the point so much as refusing to acknowledge it. Read the rest of this entry »


24 09 2017

The United States has the largest Green Party in the world, with around a quarter million registered voters, plus thousands more supporters in states like Tennessee that don’t have party registration. In survey after survey, and as demonstrated by Bernie Sanders’ galvanizing effect on the American public, substantial majorities of Americans support Green positions, from universal single-payer health care greenyetto a greater emphasis on alternative energy and a cleaner environment, to local economies and greater community and economic democracy, but you wouldn’t know it to look at election results, where the Green Party rarely even gets into double digits, let alone is a contender, in any election higher than the local level.

As I researched this piece, I discovered that it was easy to find links backing up my statements about public support for health care, alternative energy, a cleaner environment, and stronger local economies, but it seems as if nobody has thought to ask about the radical notion of having more “everyday people” involved in their own governance, let alone the ownership and governance of their workplaces. Both of these have been taken up enthusiastically in places where they have been tried, such as Burlington, Vermont when, and ever since, Bernie was mayor, Jackson, Mississippi today, and the increasing number of worker owned and managed companies around the country. The Democrats will attempt to co-opt Green Party positions on the environment, alternate energy, and the minimum wage, but you can bet they won’t touch economic, workplace, and community democracy. The change from hierarchical ownership and direction by the few to governance by the network of people actually involved in a workplace or community  threatens the corporatist, oligarchic monopoly of the few that currently calls the shots in this country, and thus consideration of such ideas is not welcome in polite society. As Noam Chomsky said,


I think that’s a very apt description of what’s going on the US these days: there’s tremendous passion and polarization around scores of issues, while the root cause of all of them is never touched, and keeps throwing up new shoots that we activists hack at until we grow weary. If we are going to put an end to all the many levels of oppression that saturate our society, we need to uproot the oligarchy that is the source of our oppression. It’s not just an oligarchy that’s outside us. All of us have internalized it to some extent, and we each need to win our own our personal psycho-spiritual revolution if the external revolution is going to succeed.

Meanwhile, around the globe, Green Parties are achieving a satisfying level of electoral success in a great many countries, and changing those countries’ priorities for the better in the process. Let’s examine some of those countries, and then look into why it hasn’t happened here, which leads directly to what it will take in order for it to happen here. Read the rest of this entry »


14 09 2005

I’ve been reading an extraordinary book lately, renewing and expanding my knowledge of recent history, oftentimes in ways that leave me shocked and angry—not just at the tragedy of the events themselves, but at the shallow and slanted way in which they were reported to me and the rest of the American public, if they were reported at all—for this book is not just a history, it is a history of how history is reported, and it lays to rest the myth of “the liberal media.” Even though it is nearly twenty years old, it is still fully relevant to current events, because some things—like the fundamentally conservative, not liberal, bias of the mainstream media—don’t change.

The book is Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman’s Manufacturing Consent, subtitled “The Political Economy of the Mass Media.” It examines several major news stories of the sixties, seventies and eighties in deep and well-footnoted detail: terrorism and electoral politics in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala, the so-called plot to kill Pope John-Paul II, and the three wars in Indo-China—Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. In all of these cases, I was astounded to discover the difference between reality on the ground and what I had been able to learn about these events from the mass media (even my cynical reading of the mass media) and even from such alternative news sources as were available at the time—about which I have to say, thank goddess for the internet—it has made the news much more democratic and diverse.

Chomsky and Herman point out that the so-called “liberal media”–the television networks, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Time and Newsweek—consistently ignored obvious connections between governments and terrorist activities in El Salvador and Guatemala, while straining to create them in Nicaragua; pumped up the idea of a KGB-Bulgarian plot to assassinate Pope John Paul II when there was no credible evidence to back up the claim (and a great deal of evidence pointing to the fascist-leaning Italian secret police’s manufacture of the plot).

I had long been aware of how widespread state terrorism has been in Central America, and the “plot to kill the pope” seems like the stuff of comic opera, but somehow I had missed just how completely and intentionally devastating America’s assault on Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam had been. The United States’ objective was to destroy the fabric of civil society in those countries, and through our superior weaponry we all but succeeded—in disrupting the lives of millions of people who were not actively hostile to this country and certainly represented no threat to America. If tht’s not terrorism, I don’t know what is. Chomsky and Herman posit that the military’s aim was to demonstrate to the third world that it was not worthwhile to engage in guerilla warfare, because US airpower would more than make up for any success against our ground troops—and the overwhelming sympathy that the people of Vietnam had for the Viet Minh (“Viet Cong,” the authors point out, was in fact a derogatory term) made U.S. success on the ground an impossibility.

And so, the atrocities at My Lai were the rule, not an exception. John Kerry’s “war hero” status devolves into war criminal status—do we know how many innocent civilians he killed?

The war on Vietnam was an attempt by the Western economic system to destroy the working, communal peasant network that was in place in southeast Asia, and force the people there to adopt a consumerist way of life that would benefit the Western economic system. The same kind of eminent domain that the Supreme Court just approved, on a transnational scale.

This is not, however merely a book of history—it is a history of how the history has been told, and it is easy to connect the dots—the same cover-over is going on today. Just as there were no hard questions in the popular media about the Gulf of Tonkin incident, there are no hard questions about why there was no wreckage scattered around from the airliner that allegedly hit the Pentagon, nor a call for a good explanation of why the World Trade Center collapsed from below when it was struck from above, nor an explanation of why World Trade Center Building 7 imploded several hours later when it had not been hit by an airplane or damaged by the collapse of the main towers, let alone a good explanation for why the “Bin Laden likely to use planes to attack U.S.” briefing was ignored, why Colin Powell lied to the U.N., why the Bin Laden family was allowed to leave the country unquestioned, why no interceptor planes were scrambled when the hijacking started…the list goes on and on

I am marking this fourth anniversary of the destruction of the World Trade Center by asserting that it wasn’t a terrorist attack—it was a sucker punch, My fellow Americans, we have been had. That pain you feel is George Bush’s fist in your gut.

Just as the media unquestioningly accepted that the rebels in El Salvador and Guatemala were communists, and that the death squads had nothing to do with the government and were not trained, equipped, and encouraged by the United States, so today the media accept that the struggle in Columbia is narcotraffickers versus government, with some uncontrollable right-wing death squads floating around, and that the trouble in Iraq is with a small minority of the population there.

And just as there were no questions about whether the United States had a right to be in Vietnam, only questions about whether the war was winnable, so there is no discussion in the mainstream media about whether the U.S. has any right to be in Iraq, only arguments about whether we can prevail against the “insurgents.” The question is too embarassing to ask, because the answer is that the United States had as much right to interfere in Vietnam—and in Iraq—as the Germans had to send their troops into Poland in 1939.

Let me say that again, more clearly: the United States has as much right to invade Iraq as the Germans had to invade Poland. Again: the United States has as much right to invade Iraq as the Germans had to invade Poland. Please tell all your friends to tell this to all their friends. It’s the thousand pound gorilla in America’s living room: the United States has as much right to invade Iraq as the Germans had to invade Poland. Do I make myself perfectly clear?

All those who support America’s current war of aggression in the middle east—including recent Democratic candidate Kerry and current front-runners Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden—are complicit in war crimes just as surely as any member of the 1939 German government. There is no good reason for the United States to have military forces in Iraq. None. Zip. Nada. The World Trade Center bombing was allowed to happen by the Bush junta, if it was not actively planned by them. And you’ll never read about it in Newsweek.

The book, again, is Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent.” Read it and weep. Read it and get motivated. Happy anniversary.

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