On April 10 Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdul Kouddous received the I.F. “Izzy” Stone award “for outstanding achievement in independent media” at Ithaca College’s Park Center for Independent Media. Kouddous won the recognition through his series of 2011 dispatches from the Tahir Square demonstrations against Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak. Sharing the award with corporate public relations watchdog Center for Media and Democracy, Kouddous is the third Democracy Now! staffer to receive the honor in the Izzy’s four year history.
Truth is among the most basic principles upon which modern governance rests and is indicative of a vigilant and engaged citizenry. It is thus of no small consequence that truth is held in limited regard by those who are designated to represent the public to itself—journalists, academics , and political leaders. Under the British crown the two primary impediments to press freedom—the means by which claims to truth may be circulated and thus scrutinized—were state control of printing through charter and the persistent threat of seditious libel charges.
Empire requires not only the means of conquest but also a high degree of civic disengagement and an irrational faith in the state’s intent and everyday practices. In the US the latter has been overwhelmingly cultivated by almost a century of commercial mass media and promotional culture that have to a significant degree eclipsed human reason.
With few exceptions the news that will shape public discourse is subject to a de facto censorial process of powerful government and corporate elites beyond accountability to the public. It is here that Sigmund Freud’s notion of repression is especially helpful for assessing the decrepit state of media and public discourse in the United States. In Freud’s view, one’s collective life experiences are registered in the subconscious, with those particularly disturbing or socially impermissible experiences being involuntarily suppressed, only later to emerge as neuroses. Whereas suppression is conscious and voluntary, repression takes place apart from individual volition.
On the one year anniversary of the events leading to the meltdown of Tokyo Electric Power Company’s nuclear generation plant in Japan’s Fukushima Prefecture, the problems posed for the environment and biological life have only intensified. This is because for over the past twelve months the remains of the seemingly distant nuclear reactors continue to emit dangerous radioactive pollutants into the water and air that are cumulative and will remain for many lifetimes. This may come as a surprise to most Americans because there has been a veritable news blackout on the event and its aftermath by Japanese and US news media since June.
Where do you locate yourself on the political spectrum? Are you liberal or conservative? On “the left”, “the right”, or perhaps you’re a bit of both (“moderate”). It is no secret that American mass culture often blunts the capacity for civic engagement and political awareness. Yet those who pursue an identity in acceptable political dialogue are less aware of how the parameters of American politics have been carefully crafted to elicit vicarious and seemingly meaningful participation for the politically inclined.