Engage in water cooler conversation over the subject of terrorism and almost invariably the Oklahoma City Murrah Federal Building bombing and Timothy McVeigh will be proffered as vivid examples of what can happen when right wing extremism mixes with dangerous conspiratorial thought. Their relatedness to the ongoing “war on terror” will likely be an afterthought.
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.
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.
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.